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Young Dubliners - Tractor Tavern

June 29


Photo: © Pat Loughery

From supporting the Gin Blossoms at Snoqualmie Casino, The Young Dubliners arrived in Ballard to what must have been a disappointingly small crowd for them. Nonetheless, they gave the gig their all and were greatly appreciated by a crowd which left throughly entertained.

They performed Irish classics such as Foggy Foggy Dew, and Follow Me up to Carlaw, rounding off with the Dublin classic Rocky Road. Among all that, there were plenty of their own compositions including Touch The Sky and others drawn from previous albums such as Rocky Road, With All Due Respect - The Irish Sessions and Saints and Sinners.

To the regulars, Keith Roberts, Brendan Holmes, Bob Boulding, Chas Waltz and Dave Ingraham, was added a guest performer on the Uilleann pipes The Tractor Tavern is an institution and their staff routine is incredibly and welcomingly unobtrusive at gigs. There’s always a fair variety of what they have to offer and we’ll try and keep you up to date with their calendar on here.

Just a word about the support band, the Crafty Bastards if I may. They were surprisingly gifted and non self-promotional. No glamour, no fancy dress accompanied their act, they just played several styles of music all with equal ability. Hailing from Idaho, they would be a useful addition to a larger festival like Bumbershoot or Sasquatch. And they stayed about to support the main act from the floor which was a nice touch. If you get a chance to see them again, take it.

ELECTRIC! - Can Can Castaways

June 27

The Can Can restaurant is host to the ELECTRIC! burlesque show every Saturday night. Four performers, led by Choreographer Rainbow Fletcher, dance their way through a series of modern songs including numbers by Feist, White Stripes and MGMT. Rainbow is accompanied by Faggedy Randy, Jonny Boy and Fiona Minx, known collectively as the Can Can Castaways, as “My Moon, My Man”, “Electric Feel”, and AC/DC are subject to Rainbow’s interpretation.

Opinion was divided as to the highlight of the night, but just ahead of the rest was Rainbow’s own solo dancing to “That’s Not My Name” by the Ting Tings, in which she somehow managed to appear dressed in an astronaut’s suit and helmet and make it both sensual and relevant. Jonny Boy, looking all the world like Freddie Ljungberg’s son, brought strength to many of the less delicate numbers and performed a duet with Rainbow in which she lifted him, which was a nice role reversal. Great use was made of bows and stretch fabric tied around the stage as the dancers tried and succeeded to utilise limited space.
 
A novel act accompanied “Electric Feel’ with Faggedy Randy starting the number in a green stretch fabric sack. Inventive, but the poor lad ran out of new things to do in there a little early.
 
ELECTRIC! is charged by a magnetic "rock" soundtrack and apart from the introductions at the start and end of each half, there is no comedy or speaking. The price for the 7.30 show is $40/45. It includes a three course meal. For the extra fiver you get a better view. We would recommend this as we were originally sat at a table where other diners obscured the lower half of the stage, an area which a great deal of the action took place on, for the first three numbers. After we moved, we had an excellent view. The price for the 10:30PM show time includes a show ticket and a voucher to use towards your food and/or beverage bill
 
Although there are highly expensive special packages available, $45 represents excellent value for a night out and a three course meal. Some of the acts are as good as what we saw at the Triple Door, although ELECTRIC!’s self-imposed restriction on one genre of music by its nature really prevented too much variety, but did ensure continuity.  There was sexuality in abundance and some nudity but nothing too outlandish, and the show is 21 and over anyway. There is something in this show for both genders. The boys are athletic and agile, and Rainbow and her friend Fiona Minx, very sensual.
 
Among other shows currently running there are I See London, I See France,   Seattle Sound's "The Song Show" and AEROBOTRON!, and given that Rainbow Fletcher seems to be an extremely able choreographer, our interest was sufficiently piqued to want to check out at least one of these shows.
 

ELECTRIC! runs to July 25th and you can find out more details here.

 

Cats - Paramount

April 16


Photo: © G CREATIVE
The tremendously popular and critically acclaimed Cats premiered in 1981 in London and has been delighting audiences ever since, winning numerous awards, including the Laurence Olivier Award and the Tony Award for Best Musical. For those unfamiliar, the musical was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and is based on T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. It is about a tribe of Cats who gather once a year at the Jellicle Ball, at which their elderly leader, Deuteronomy, chooses a member of the tribe to be reincarnated. The musical showcases feline characters who, not surprisingly, represent archetypes of human characters. Their stories are told through the poetry of T.S. Eliot, and relationships are presented through choreography.

The current Paramount production was this reviewer’s first time experiencing Cats. I went with high expectations, some of which were met. As Act I begins, the cast enters the dark theater from the back, moving glowing cat’s-eyes on poles over the audience. This entrance foreshadows the mysterious and magical nature of the story that is to unfold. The first few numbers, however, lacked the energy I would have liked to see. The singing, dancing, and lighting were technically correct but, at least initially, the cast failed to engage the audience effectively.

This may have been due to opening night jitters, but a contributing factor may have been the fact that the volume for the solo parts was too low. Fortunately, the energy and engagement level increased as the show progressed.

Full review on Seattle Fine Arts Examiner

Tuesdays with Morrie - Taproot Theatre

March 25 - April 25

By David Wittstock

“Don’t hide your light under a bushel”. This is one of the many clever little life lessons that terminally ill patient Morrie tells his friend and former student Mitch in “Tuesdays with Morrie,” the theatre adaptation of Mitch Albom’s autobiographical bestseller now playing at the Taproot Theatre.

A two man play, “Tuesdays with Morrie” chronicles the weekly Tuesday visits by Mitch, a sportswriter who, though successful, has “lost his way”, to his former professors house where he interviews Morrie and gets his many views on life. Morrie is dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease, which cripples him slowly and painfully; his progression from walker, to wheelchair, to bed ridden is the basic timeline of the play.

Last seen at Taproot in September in “Susan and God”, Nolan Palmer shines as Morrie Schwartz bringing all the charm, quirkiness, and sincerity to endure his character to the audience. Aaron Lamb does a fine job as Mitch but Palmer is the true star and the main reason to see this play.

As far as the play itself is concerned it will either tug (or yank) on your heart strings or it won’t. It’s a feel good story and very sentimental and while many audience members were clearly moved by the final scenes, I found it to be, overall, a little too sappy for my likes.

But Palmer is wonderful and even if it doesn’t hit you the way it’s hoping to, there should be at least a couple memorable zingers from Morrie that will stay with you.

 

Breaking Hearts and Takin Names - Seattle Rep


Kevin Kling and Simone Perrin
Photo: Chris Bennion

April 13 - May 10

Once in the proverbial blue moon, do you realise you're going to enjoy a show within the first three minutes. Kevin Kling's welcome return to the Seattle Rep, "Breakin Hearts and Takin Names", is that show.

Everything is just so adorable. The backdrop appears to be a redneck or country bar which we soon find out is somewhere in Minnesota. It is culturally soothing and brilliantly succesful at including the auidence from the very start. Away to our left stands something even more adorable, Simone Perrin. The two united successfully before at the Rep for Kling's "How? How? Why? Why? Why? and their growing army of fans will not be disappointed with this show.

"You Need to feel Safe with a Storyteller"

Kevin's narrative style is incredibly unannoying. He believes, "You need to feel safe with a storyteller. You develop a trust in the room and then you can take people to places that are either difficult or frightening or hilarious or challenging."

He achieves this perfectly and the audience is with him almost instantly. Raising his voice loud enough to reach the far ends of the smaller Leo K Wright theater, but speaking softly enough that the front rows could believe they were swapping tales with a fellow passenger in a boxcar, Kevin spins yarns both funny and didactic. Interspersed is Simone's incredibly versatile voice. Staring with Edith Piaf's classis, "Je ne regrette rien", she takes us through a musical journey of the globe. Some songs, like "Crow" are loosely attached to Kling's monologue, others like "Miss the Mississippi and You" and "Canada Goose" conjure up images of places but one number stood out above all. In singing "Vampire", Simone adopts a central European accent and assumes the role of brokenhearted lover. The song really is hilarious and delivered comedically to perfection. The show ends with her performance of the Johnny Cash classic "Folsom Prison Blues". Don't ask me why. Don't ask me why it's cute. It just is.

There is sadness in Kling's life but he addresses it in a postitive but quirky way. People who are already fans of his will not be disappointed and he even gives us a free Minnesotan lesson, convincing a Seattle audience to mutter the immortal phrase "I ain't gonna pay no dollar for a corn muffin that's half dough."

It is quite hard to describe why Simone's 'Edith Piaf crossed with European Burlesque' accordion numbers fit perfectly inside Kevin's homespun tales of his youth in Minnesota, but they do. But please don't take my word for it. This is the sweetest little show and a fitting end to a wonderful season at the Rep.

Glasvegas at Neumos

April 13

A large and enthusiastic crowd for a Monday night gathered on Seattle's Capitol Hill. While all was relatively quiet in the surrounding area, there was a frisson of anticipation inside well known and well loved music venue Neumos. Glasvegas get compared to other bands fairly frequently with reviewers of their previous US shows already throwing about such names as Jesus and Mary Chain, Oasis, and Wet Wet Wet. Clearly too, they have a cult following in this part of the world.

They were opened by a three person all girl electro soul-punk band from San Francisco called Von Iva. They had stage presence rather than any originality and their lead singer, Jillian Iva, found herself raising her voice to be heard over the ban in the early numbers. Then Jillian tried a solo number without the band to reveal a very good singing voice. Perhaps their choice of numbers wasn't quite right or maybe they had sound issues, but Von Iva definitely improved as their set went on. Their audience interaction was well above the norm of sultry wannabee rock stars and there is definitely star potential here with some tweaking.

But it was the Scots most had come to see and they arrived with minimal introduction and fuss, and just started playing. James Allan, Rab Allan, Paul Donoghue and Caroline McKay looked neither happy to be in Seattle and the few obligatory mentions of their locations were perfunctory. The secret to touring is to make every night look like it's your only night - because it is to the fans, and Glasvegas lead singer James Allan made no attempt to do this until after the set. They played all their well known numbers but the fans, loyal though they were, seemed underwhelmed until "GO SQUARE GO" when finally everyone really began to get into it. How many know that a 'square go' is Glaswegian for two people voluntarily leaving a bar to settle their differences by fists outside, was unclear to me. But is is a great number and the audience loved it.

They were also mostly unaware that "Flowers and Football Tops" concerned the murder of Glasgow teenager Kriss Donald, a white youth called by a gang of Asians. As such, the incident became a cause celebre of the racist far right, eager to deflect attention from their long and violent history of unprovoked attacks against blacks. There is no evidence or suggestion that Glasvegas share any right wing sympathies and have apparently worked hard to distance themselves from the far right's adulation of this song. Nevertheless, the whole thing made me a little uncomfortable and I considered that I perhaps would have enjoyed it more had I no idea what the song was about. Ending it with a slower rendition of "You are My Sunshine" seemed somewhat out of sync with the tone of the rest of the set but it did give James a chance to demonstrate a decent voice emerging from behind the bass guitars. As is the case with aspiring rock bands, almost all the lyrics were totally indecipherable. The exception to this was the somewhat catchy .....  full review on Seattle Fine Arts Examiner.

Carrie Fisher's Wishful Drinking
Seattle Rep

April 2 - May 3

by Leez Wright

In her one-woman autobiographical tell-all tale, “Wishful Drinking,” Carrie takes us through all the various crises in her life and the characters who have joined her on her incredible journey, with humour but with no trace of revenge or vindictiveness. She is open and honest about her mental illness and her alcoholism without ever belittiling the seriousness of either condition. Yet she is funny. And charming.

Having spent plenty of time in the dark side, Carrie Fisher has no compunction about delivering a crushing blow to girls (and boys) who grew up idolizing those gravity-defying locks of Princess Leia -- she hated them. After donning a wig of the infamous buns herself, she uses a male audience member to verify her claim that no one could look good in them. Having insisted that my own mother routinely style my elementary school hair after the space goddess, my heart pounded in angry protest at her assertion.

But rest assured, for the duration of Fisher's frenetic, breezily personal performance, the jokes are mostly on her. And they are in no short supply. From her celebrity-royalty upbringing ("They were the Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston of their day," Fisher says of her parents, for those not well-versed in the gossip climate of Golden Age Hollywood) to her space-royalty persona ("Leia follows me like a vague smell," she remarks), Fisher tosses off brief, hilarious anecdotes with the sharp comic timing befitting a woman of her entertainment industry pedigree. She skilfully neither idolises Hollywood lifestyle nor does she gracelessly and ungratefully destroy it.

Smoking cigarettes on a simple stage featuring little more than a comfy recliner and an armchair, Fisher feeds us her amusing firsthand encounters with some of the biggest names in entertainment as though we were all guests at her fantasy dinner party. Iconic figures like Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, and George Lucas pass through her life's stories with frequency, but never does she alienate. Despite formative years that for most of us might as well have been in outer space, the Fisher we're presented seems entirely real and accessible. And oh so human.


Photo: Kevin Berne
This is no doubt due to the striking frankness with which she discusses her most personal demons, ranging from bipolar disorder to her variety of addictions. Not content to simply cherry pick the obviously comedic material on the surface of her life, Fisher finds richer jokes by mining darker places, from the dissolution of her marriage to the absence of her famous father. These bits, uproarious in their own right, resonate even more due to their unflinchingly raw realism.

If the show falters at all, it is when Fisher relies on tired comic conventions, such as burlesque style audience humiliation. But in a way, it serves to bring the rest of us closer to her world, and she is reasonably tame with her victims. Those jokes, perhaps also a product of her old show biz upbringing, are the only instances when Fisher seems to be acting, rather than simply being. Perhaps she just needs a rest because she gives alot of herself physically during the show, and the events she recounts can't be totally painless.

Others may complain that she never lets us see her at her most vulnerable -- even a segment about her good friend dying in her bed is played strictly for laughs -- but this show is not constructed to accommodate tragic, or even somber forays into her past. Nor is it designed to accumulate sympathy for her. As Fisher herself says, at some point in the healing process, even horrible events become funny -- how fortunate for her, and us, that she has reached that stage.

You don't need to have a biographical knowledge of Fisher's life to get most of the humour. It is sculpted to be inclusive not exclusive.

Wishful Drinking is a very funny story, told with star quality, but also with dignity and many a laugh.

Pacific Northwest Ballet - Swan Lake

Beauty and majesty with PNB’s Swan Lake

When the curtain rose for the opening night of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Swan Lake, it was clear to the audience that they were in for a memorable evening of pageantry, precision and grace. The sets and costumes were magical and sparkled with an air of majesty, and notably in acts two and three, the corps de ballet performed as one with ethereal beauty.

PNB truly shines when it comes to performing a classic ballet such as Swan Lake. Kaori Nakamura’s confident portrayal of Odette/Odile, a dual role notable for the physical demands it places on a dancer, was beguiling, delicate and commanding. Equally engaging was Lucien Postlewaite, as Prince Siegfried, whose leaps and pirouettes captivated the audience. Jonathan Porreta’s court jester delighted all as he smiled and bounded to and fro across the stage, making it look effortless. Add to this the hauntingly beautiful music score by Peter Ilyich Tchaichovsky, and one is truly transported to another time and place.

Louise Nadeau, who will retire from the company in June, will perform the lead role of Odette/Odile Saturday evening. Also getting their turn to star in this demanding role is Carla Körbes, Mara Vinson, Miranda Weese, and Carrie Imler.

This performance of Swan Lake is PNB at their best. Shows will run through April 19, so don’t miss the opportunity to see a true classic.

Background on Swan Lake

Swan Lake is considered by many across the globe to be the greatest classical ballet of all time. With its fantastical plot filled with romance, sorcery, and betrayal, Swan Lake offers ballerinas the ultimate artistic and physical challenge of a dual role – Odette, trapped in the body of a white swan, and Odile, the temptress daughter of Baron Von Rothbart, who plots the downfall of Odette’s true love, Prince Siegfried. Pacific Northwest Ballet’s 1981 production was a significant milestone as the first full-length ballet re-created for the Company.

The current production of Kent Stowell’s Swan Lake, in a revised staging and featuring new scenic, costume and lighting designs by Ming Cho Lee, Paul Tazewell and Randall G. Chiarelli, premiered to critical acclaim in 2003 to open PNB’s inaugural season in Marion Oliver McCaw Hall.

Opening Night Pictures

Kaori Nakamura and Lucien Postlewaite in Swan Lake's Opening Night

Entire Entourage in Swan Lake's Opening Night

Carla Körbes in Swan Lake's Opening Night

 

Seattle Opera Young Artists - Bellevue's Theatre at Meydenbauer Center
Midsummer Night's Dream

March 27 - April 5

On an evening when most of Seattle was covered with a blanket of gray and a sheet of water, audiences packed into Meydenbauer Theater to see what the future of opera might hold with Seattle Opera Young Artist's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

From the British schoolroom setting to the incomparable Pyramis and Thisbee frolic, this is an evening's entertainment well worth the price of admission. Benjamin Britten's 1960 setting of the classic Shakespeare tale, takes us on the well known path of mixed-up lovers, magic potions, a theater troupe of ne'er do wells and the eventual righting of all wrongs, leading to a happy ending for all.

Each set of characters has their own particular sound. Anthony Roth Costanzo's bright countertenor was clean and precise as he weaves his spells on the young lovers and his naughty queen, Tytania, Emily Hindrichs who infuses her character with a sensuality which reaches out and commands the audience to pay attention.

The Athenians were uniformly good. The refined tenor Bray Wilkins as Lysander, the rich-voiced mezzo Elizabeth Pojanowski as the demure Hermia, the empassioned baritone Michael Krzankowski as Demetrius and the soprano Michelle Trovato as the oft put-upon Helena.

Jeffrey Madison as both the know-it-all Bottom and the push broom wearing Pyramus has both the vocal power and the comedic timing to make his characters live on the stage. When he and the mop clad Alex Mansoori as the buxom Thisbee are both found on the stage at the same time, the stage sparkles and the audiences roar.

The one person who doesn't sing in the show, David Hogan, as Puck, deserves special mention. Every time he came on stage, I found myself watching to see what he was going to do and following his every movement. He acted as the visual narrator always helping the staged drama along, guiding us deeper and deeper into the musical forest conducted by Brian Garman and directed by Peter Kazaras.

If you want to know what the future of opera holds, you need look no further than the Young Artists Program at Seattle Opera. Do not miss out. Great singing and laughs are guaranteed from this fine cast.

ACT Theatre

April 10-May 10, 2009

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

PREVIEW:Jeffrey Hatcher has seen the Victorians, and they are us. The timely nature of Hatcher’s inventive 2008 retelling of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde cannot be ignored; and ACT is thrilled to launch its 45th Anniversary season with this classic thriller that runs in the Allen Theatre from April 10 to May 10, 2009. Hatcher’s new play honors Robert Louis Stevenson’s original 1886 novella, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, while adding a brisk pace and complex interpretation of the murky relationship between good and evil.

Even the Mystery Writers of America agree that Hatcher’s examination of this controversial “gray area” is worthy of recognition and have recently nominated Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for an Edgar Award as its 2008 “Best Play.” The awards will be presented in New York City on April 30, 2009, just two weeks into ACT’s Seattle run.

The talented and adept six person cast includes: Sylvie Davidson (Miss Elizabeth Jelkes), Brad Farwell (Dr. Henry Jekyll), Deborah Fialkow (Mr. Edward Hyde), David Anthony Lewis (Mr. Edward Hyde), David Pichette (Mr. Edward Hyde), and Brandon Whitehead (Mr. Edward Hyde). They began rehearsals last week and are relishing the process of exploring the dualities and varied dialects of their own individual characters.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde will haunt and delight Seattle audiences with bloodcurdling sound effects, a minimalist set, and authentic costume stylings. The overall design relies on an all gray color palette with occasional punches of blood red and bile yellow. It integrates props and music reminiscent of 19th century Victorian England and, of course, there will be fog.

In early 2008 Arizona Theatre Company and San Jose Repertory Theatre co-produced the world premiere of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde starring R. Hamilton Wright as Dr. Jekyll. Now Wright, assuming the role of director, lends his experience as Jekyll to the new cast. Wright remarks, “As a director who has previously played one of the roles, I certainly approach this project from a unique angle. But the fact that we are mounting this production in-the-round requires tossing out most of my previous experience and re-inventing the play in an exciting new way.”

Cast:
Sylvie Davidson Miss Elizabeth Jelkes

Bradford Farwell* Dr. Henry Jekyll

Deborah Fialkow* Poole; A Maid; A Prostitute; A Police Physician; An Hotel Porter; Mr. Edward Hyde; A Surgical student; Old Woman

David Anthony Lewis* Dr. H.K. Lanyon; A Drunkard; A Surgical Student; Mr. Edward Hyde

David Pichette* Mr. Gabriel Utterson; Mr. Edward Hyde

Brandon Whitehead* Mr. Richard Enfield; Sir Danvers Carew; A Private Detective; A Police Inspector; Mr. Edward Hyde


Todd Jefferson Moore as Inspector Porfiry and Galen Joseph Osier as Raskolnikov.
Todd Jefferson Moore as Inspector
Porfiry and Galen Joseph Osier as Raskolnikov
Photo: Chris Bennion

Intiman Theatre - Crime and Punishment

April 3 - May 3, 2009

Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus have adapted Fyodor Dostoyevsky's novel to form a 90 minute play. Previously performed at the Capitol Hill Arts Center in 2007, the three actors take on an enormous workload - all in different ways. Galen Joseph Osier plays an impoverished student, Raskolnikov, who harbours grandiose philosophies about the nature of good and evil, and crime and punishment. He postulates a theory about the world being populated by two types of men; "the ordinary" and "the extraordinary". The former are followers. They follow rules, and they follow "the extraordinary". However, the latter group, in which Raskolnikov hints at including himself, as well as Napoleon Bonaparte, are above the law, and may act freely of the constraints that bind other men. He once wrote an article about them but never got paid. In fact, there are doubts he ever knew it was published.

Bereft of any props bar three chairs, Osier has to portray a range of emotions in an unbroken ninety minutes during which he rarely leaves the stage. He has to portray a man sliding from idealism into insanity by way of self-delusion and his only props are his lines, and his fellow cast members.

Into this mix comes Todd Jefferson Moore's Inspector Porfiry. In contrast to the irrational and unstable Raskolnikov, Porfiry is a calm but inquisitive policeman whose world is the one of the logical, one of evidence and of its resultant conclusions. However, in order to obtain the confession and conviction of the insane student, Porfiry delves into his psyche and philosophy.

The two are fine actors but there are two hindrances to this being pulled off with total success. One is simply the lack of time. The whole play lasts ninety minutes and the interaction between Raskolnikov and Porfiry is allocated barely a third of that. Secondly, there is not quite enough chemistry between the two. That is nobody's fault. Sometimes there is and sometimes there isn't. Porfiry is a fine actor and carries off his detective role well. Osier, in portraying mental instability, occasionally descends into over-dramatization and occasionally the two seem to be talking beyond each other rather than to each other. I didn't detect any gradual unraveling of Raskolnikov's mental veil before the Inspector's eyes, and there was a touch of inevitability about the direction the play was taking, which made it hard to regard as a suspense thriller.

 Full Review at Crime and Punishment - Seattle Examiner.

Tickets are available from www.intiman.org or 206.269.1900. Tickets range in price from $40 to $55, with discounts available for youth, seniors and groups. Patrons 25 and under can purchase tickets to any performance for $10. Pending availability, rush tickets will be sold 15 minutes before curtain for $20. Intiman will offer two pay-what-you-can performances (with a $5 minimum per ticket): Wednesday, April 1 and Sunday, April 5, both at 7:30 pm. There will be four student matinees during the run. This production is sponsored by the City of Seattle’s Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs and 4Culture.

 

Pacific Northwest Ballet - Broadway Festival


March 12 - 22, 2009

Orza and Körbes Excel as PNB Goes "Broadway"

PNB ventured outside its safe zone with this adaptation of Broadway hits and when it was good it was very good. Hardcore ballet fans are not going to see much to enthuse about obviously, but as an attempt to reach out to a new audience, Broadway was a laudable attempt. The program consisted of four parts, George Balanchine's "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" created for the musical On Your Toes, "Carousel", "TAKE FIVE…More or Less" and "West Side Story Suite".

"Then the Magic Began"

Broadway
Kari Brunson was Athletic and Beautiful in Take 5
Photo © Angela Sterling..
The opening set, "Slaughter on 10th", sets Balanchine's choreography to Richard Rodgers' music and it started slowly and was beginning to lose the audience's attention. Then the magic began. Seth Orza and Carla Körbes appeared. Orza danced as Morrosine, premier danseur noble, and Carla Körbes part was called the Striptease girl. Körbes lay asleep on a bar and as Orza awakened her, she revealed a black roaring twenties style flapper dress.

It had been generally agreed that Rubies (from Jewels) was the most sensual piece most spectators had seen performed on the PNB stage. It's still mentioned whenever we meet a new ballet fan. No longer, Miss Körbes trumped that and more for sheer sensuality and sexiness. An unbelievable performance that united the hall, drew breath and silenced the chatter that had begun. But it wasn't a solo. Orza has long been one of Prost Amerika's favourite male dancers and tonight he showed us something new. He acted, he tap danced; and he did both, especially the latter, extremely well.

Draped in the suit of the era, he moved effortlessly, and while he may not be moving across the road to Teatro ZinZanni quite yet, the choreography could have been written as a vehicle to showcase Orza's other talents not normally required in a classical ballet. At the end of the piece, Orza had the audience eating out of his hands and manipulated them perfectly, as he drew his performance back into the ambit of the storyline. Let the man blossom more!

It looked a hard act to follow and proved so. At the intermission after Carousel, it was still Orza and Körbes on the lips of the audience. Things picked up after that, and you can't go far wrong with Dave Brubeck's "TAKE FIVE…More or Less". Kaori Nakamura in the yellow caught the eye mostly as she exuded traits better known in classical ballet, but successfully managing to bridge any gap between jazz and ballet. Kari Brunson clearly relished in the diversity being asked of her and looked radiant, with Lesley Rausch in the purple not far behind. But Take Five is such an iconic piece of music, that the best choreography in the world couldn't really compete with it.

Broadway
Laura Gilbreath, Chalnessa Eames, Lindsi Dec,
Carla Körbes, Kari Brunson and Maria Chapman,
perform "America" from West Side Story Suite
Photo © Angela Sterling..

Carla Körbes is a Great Reason to be in America

The night ended with West Side Story Suite, where Jerome Robbins' choreography was set to Leonard Bernstein's music. This set contained the second highest point of the night, perhaps even the showstealer. Carla Körbes danced, pranced, acted, disdained and illuminated whatever part of the stage she occupied regardless of the lighting, as she performed the show classic "America". It's a heated debate whether she quite eclipsed Porretta and Körbes but on any other night, either performance would have stolen the show.

The trailer on the film clip of West Side Story used the tagline "Unlike most classics, 'West Side Story' grows younger". Well sadly, it doesn't. The finger clicking, the overuse of the dated word 'cool' and the sixties chat looked obsolete and the cast looked ill at ease performing it. That wasn't their fault or the fault of the choreography. But then came Carla Körbes again. And the world of the Jets and the Sharks seemed wonderful again. I'd love to see this song reprised at some point in a future show. Mr Boal - find an excuse!

Seattle Rep - Harold Pinter's Betrayal

February 19 - March 22

Cheyenne Casebier and New York actors Alex Podulke and David Christopher Wells star in the remake of Harold Pinter's somewhat dark work on the theme of marital infidelity. Guilt, dishonesty and betrayal are themes Pinter investigates as the three characters, a married couple Emma and Robert (Alex Podulke), deal with Emma's affair with Robert's best friend Jerry (David Christopher Wells).

Alex Podulke as Robert and Cheyenne Casebier as Emma in Harold Pinter's Betrayal directed by Braden Abraham and playing in the Leo K. Theatre February 19 to March 22. Photo copyright Chris Bennion, 2009.
Alex Podulke as Robert and Cheyenne Casebier as Emma
Photo: Chris Bennion
Set in London, in a time period spanning 1968 to 1977, the scenes go chronologically backwards as Pinter documents the events leading up to a haunting and awkward pub meeting between Jerry and Emma in 1977, which opens the play.

The characters aren't very lovable and anyone who has ever been a victim of infidelity or who goes in with a moral disapproval of their lackadaisical attitude to the people they have betrayed, will dislike the three of them intensely. That however is a hallmark of good theatre, because theatre should instill emotions in those observing it. Apathy towards characters is the stage equivalent of dead air on the radio.

Females will immediately identify with Emma as the sole female character, although for the males watching, instant identification with either of the characters may take a little longer. The roles of betrayer and victim swap regularly, not just as the facts unfold, but during some of the excellent dialogue between Jerry and Robert, as both jostle verbally for the twin roles of victim and utter bastard.

Cheyenne Casebier is now a Seattle resident which hopefully means we will see more of her in our theatres. She played the somewhat cool detached Emma expertly, so that we really never knew what she was thinking, just as Pinter had hoped. The silences in this play are superbly used and I found myself often looking at Cheyenne waiting for he to fill one of those voids, only to find Pinter had given Emma no words at that point in the play.

Where the silences around Emma are telling, the verbal jousting between Jerry and Robert provides a contrary form of entertainment. They seem to love disliking each other, but you never get the impression they will fall out over the affair Jerry had with Robert's wife. Perhaps this is at the root of Emma's dissatisfaction. Neither man ever quite seems to value her over his best friend. If it was Cheyenne's and Pinter's attempt to convey that without using any words, both did a superb job.

Finally, a word about the accents. Because of the European image of this publication, actors are always very curious as to what we made of their accents. We've been pretty honest in the past and will continue to do so. Cheyenne did so well, you could have thought her English. The gentlemen also did fairly well with what is not one of the easier English accents to cope with. It's hard to do badly, but almost impossible to do perfectly. With the sheer volume of dialogue, Wells and Podulke had to cope with, they deserve commendation for the consistency of their performance in this respect.

Overall, this was well produced. The music and silhouettes the Rep used to break up the scenes and allow for the scene changes were atmospheric and contributed rather than distracted from the proceedings. I enjoyed this and at just 75 minutes, would recommend it for a midweek treat while we Seattleites impatiently wait for that summer weather to finally arrive.

Performance Details: Performances of Betrayal are at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday, with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sundays. Post-play discussions will be held after the performances on Sunday, March 8 at 2 p.m. and Sunday, March 15 at 2 p.m. There is an audio-described performance on Saturday, March 14 at 2 p.m. and an American Sign Language (ASL)-interpreted performance on Sunday, March 15 at 2 p.m.

Triple Door - Lúnasa

March 12
 

Seán Smyth, Trevor Hutchinson, Kevin Crawford, Cillian Vallely and Paul Meehan make up Lúnasa and a Triple Door audience was glad that they do. Everything about this evening's event was perfect, as Kevin Crawford, the flute player, did most of the talking and allowed his self-deprecating personality to weave around the music. Eschewing the often invoked practise of talking endlessly about the history of each tune, the band just played good music well, and filled in the rest periods with some decent comedy.

Trevor Hutchinson is the tall guy and he towered over his bass, as Vallely and Meehan sat playing the uillean pipes and guitar respectively. Seán Smyth on the fiddle smiled his way through the evening despie being the target of Crawford's light humour.

The tunes were fantastic coming not just from Ireland, but Scotland, Galicia, Asturia, Canada and Brittany too. Lúnasa don't visit the States nearly often enough. If they visit tour town, go and see them.

ACT - Always Patsy Cline

February 12 - March 8
 

If there is a stage equivalent of a chick flick, this is it. However, audience goers of both genders emerged from this whimsical, though ultimately sad, piece of theatre with beaming smiles. This locally produced version of the successful off-Broadway play stars Cayman Ilika as Patsy Cline and Kate Jaeger as the Houston Housewife Louise Seger.

Although perhaps originally intended as a tribute to country and western singer Patsy Cline who died tragically at age 30 in a plane crash in 1963, "ALWAYS…PATSY CLINE" is far more than that. It is an exploration of fan/celebrity relationships, platonic female friendships and perhaps even, at a stretch, how radio began to shape and influence American life in the timeframe covered in the play.

Having first heard Cline on the "Arthur Godfrey Show" in 1957, Seger became an immediate and avid fan of Cline's and she constantly hounded the local disc jockey to play Cline's records on the radio. In 1961 when Cline went to Houston for a show, Seger and her buddies arrived about an hour-and-a-half early and, by coincidence, met Cline who was traveling alone. The two women struck up a friendship that was to culminate in Cline spending the night at Seger's house—a friendship that lasted until Cline's untimely death.

The show is based on a true story about Cline’s friendship with a fan from Houston named Louise Seger, who befriended the star in a Texas honky-tonk in 1961, and continued a correspondence with Cline until her death. It offers fans who remember Cline while she was alive a chance to look back, while giving new fans an idea of what seeing her was like and what she meant to her original fans.  

Indeed, the audience on opening night was a mix of ages. There were older people for whom Cline was clearly an important part of their cultural Zeitgeist, and younger people who may have had less personal knowledge of Cline, but were drawn to the play by other factors.

Ilika has a beautiful voice and when she sings, her output just oozed and seeped around the downstairs theatre at the ACT, creeping snuggily into every corner of the intimate auditorium. Even if this type of music isn't really your thing, as may have been the case with a Pacific Northwest audience, Ilika just charmed and softened the crowd, so that by the end of each song, we were all honorary rednecks. And half of us were in love.

Juxtaposed to her seduction of us, was her co-star Kate Jaeger, as obsessed fan Louise Seger. Jaeger talked to the audience, related to us, and even sat at one of the tables with audience members while performing. This technique and Kate's enormous personality was instrumental in hauling us back in time. She moved effortlessly around the crowd and stage, though the latter, was left mostly to Ilika and the back up band, the Bobcats. The two combined to make an unlikely friendship between the superbly pretty but vulnerable star and her ordinary housewife admirer believable and touching.  

Ladies, drag your men to this whether they like it or not. Gents, once you get there, just listen to Cayman Ilika sing. Neither of you will regret it.

Teatro Zinzanni - Under the Gypsy Moon

February 19 - June 21

Win Tickets to Under the Gypsy Moon

Teatro ZinZanni continues to find the right blend between keeping what is good but changing up what could become tired in its latest show ‘Under the Gypsy Moon’. And still here are the segments that TZ does best, the incredible acrobatics and the audience participation slots.

Making their Teatro ZinZanni debuts are the Duo Madrona. Ben Wendel and Rachel Nehmer are now Seattleites, having moved here and found a home for their trapeze bar at the newly-opened School of Acrobatics and New Circus Acts (SANCA). They have appeared at our Moisture Festival but brought their incredible act to the Spiegeltent for the first time. One doesn’t so much judge trapeze acts by the applause but by the oohs and aahs from an enraptured audience; and there were oohs and aahs a-plenty during this amazing performance. Sadly for a reviewer, words cannot really describe adequately some of their moves, though presumably they have names. You’ll just have to see this for yourself.

Up to the March 8th performance, contortionist Vita Radionova will be performing at TZ before Elena Borodina, and her world famous handstand routine, arrive to take over. Radionova delighted the audience at the last show and to see her again is very welcome. Acknowledgment should be made of the excellent choice of music for Vita’s routine. Borodina will take over from March 11th and her arrival is much anticipated by everyone at TZ.

Israeli Bernard Hazens juggled. He’s very good at what he does but what was excellent was his balancing act on top of drums, kegs, and boxes. Totally in control of his balance, he elicits a stream of “He’s not really going to do that, is he?”, questions before he goes on to do the amazing.. An odd fact is that he was nominated for the Award of best NBA half-time act in 2007.

Scotch with a Dash of Vodka

The comedy and schtick was provided by the multi-talented Geoff Hoyle. As Scottish housewife, Fiona McCracken and as Russian chef Volodya, Hoyle treated his audience participants with a gentle humour eschewing the opportunities available to embarrass them. There was also slightly less of the overtly sexual content traditionally relied upon by pantomime dames, as Hoyle let his timing and the quality of his routine do the entertaining. Hoyle is a natural comedic talent and although his two routines were the two longest in the show, he was thoroughly worth the time the direction awarded him.

Toly, Charly and Eddy Castor communally Les Castors, performed their foot juggling antics and were a joy to watch for those who have never seen them. Musically Duffy Bishop's incredible voice sent chills around the tent, she growled, purred and roared and her voice evoked sensuality as she hit every note perfectly. If anything, Duffy may have been a little underused in this show as room had to be made for the jugglers, acrobatics and gymnastics. She has performed with such legends as Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker and Lou Rawls. And first appeared at TZ in 1999. We would have also liked to have seen more of Dana Johnson, a well regarded operatic singer, who sung "Youkali", an operatic number written by Kurt Weill in 1934. Perhaps TZ just has too much talent!

Canadian clown Joe de Paul provided the comic relief and the story was loosely written around his desire for love but as is the trend in recent ZinZanni shows, the emphasis is more on the individual acts than placing them around a strong story line. The gypsy theme of the show was played well, not too overpowering that everything had to be gypsified, but with sufficient cultural input to give the show a coherent image.

The food was excellent for this show. Chef Tom Douglas is at his best when offering steak and it was done superbly with particular demands being no trouble for the helpful staff. The wine selection is plentiful and varied. We opted for the Spanish Azuarga La Planta and it complemented the red meat perfectly.

Reservations at www.zinzanni.org.

Win Tickets to Under the Gypsy Moon

Seattle Opera - Bluebeard’s Castle with Erwartung

February 21 - March 7

A bard appears before the curtain to introduce our opera and asks where it take splace? In the outside world, or the world within? It was a question we would spend the next three hours trying to answer.

Bela Bartok wrote A kékszakállú herceg vára (Bluebeard's Castle) in 1918. The descriptive power of the music takes the best from the romantic era and brings it into the modern era. Seven keyholes, seven locks and seven doors hold seven secrets to Bluebeard's world. With every door which is opened, Judith becomes more and more intrigued, needing to see more, know more and understand more about her new husband and the castle of darkness. With every door that is opened, Judith's female curiosity is leading towards her destiny of becoming his fourth wife and shrouded in the dark veil of midnight.

Bartok touches something deep within all of us, perhaps it's the desire to know, the curiosity to see what.s behind the door, or a fierce desire to protect who and what we are from the world around us. We don't see any of the rooms behind the door, nor do we need to. An ornate set would in fact take away from the intimacy of what we see on the stage. When I saw the opera for the second time, I spent a great deal of time looking at the audience reactions. Everyone was so engaged and affected by what was happening on the stage, an hour passed as if it were ten minutes. If the ultimate goal of opera is to take us on a journey and to enlighten as well as entertain us, then Seattle Opera has yet again done a fantastic job.

As Bluebeard, John Relyea thrilled audiences with his deep and richly textured bass-baritone. He was a commanding presence who was masculine always, but had such tenderness and such a reserved passion for Judith. As each door opened, you could feel how every key was stabbing him in the heart, watch his expression as Judith opens each door and you can see a man tormented. Malgorazta Walewska shines on stage as Judith with her lusty dramatic mezzo voice grasping the innocence of the virgin as well as the harder edge of the sometimes not so fairer sex.

We are invited to continue the story of Bluebeard's Castle by watching the demented Judith unraveling on both sides of the infamous seventh door in Schoenberg's monodrama Erwartung. A nameless woman waits for her lover. In the darkness, she comes across what she first thinks is a body, but then determines to be a tree-trunk. She is frightened and becomes more anxious, as she cannot find the man she is looking for anywhere. Then, finding the dead body of her lover, she calls out for help, but no one comes. She accuses her dead lover of being unfaithful - then asks herself what she is to do with her life, as her lover is dead.

Making the decision to place the opening and closing in a mental asylum gave an eerie credibility to the continuation of Judith's journey into madness. The appearance of the psychiatrist, Mark Johnson and lover, Noam Markus in unusual ways added reality to the complex mental journey reflected in the atonal orchestral score. At times, it felt like being caught in the middle of a Salvador Dali painting - unsure of what was reality and what was fantasy. Judging from the eyes riveted to the stage and the thunderous applause at the end of the opera, audiences agreed we were seeing two classic works of modernism at their very best.

Susan Marie Pierson does a fantastic job of singing the role of the Woman, especially when you consider how little help the composer wrote for the voice. Her voice was a beautiful, dramatic soprano. Powerful and tender with a raw, visceral quality which pulled us into the dramatic work on stage. Most impressive was how she was able to live a dual role on stage, one of the participant and the other as narrator

If you translate Erwartung from German, it means expectation. Seattle Opera took our expectations and exceeded them, giving us an unforgettable evening we will not soon forget.

Seattle Rep - Seafarer

February 21 - March 7


Audience Just Bursting to Applaud

You could feel it. Sometimes the audience just want a play to end so they can get out of there. Last night the audience wanted the play to end for an entirely different reason. They wanted to applaud the hell out of Sean G Griffin. The rest of the cast were pretty good too but Griffin as irasicble old codger, Richard Harkin, dominated the stage from start to finish.

And so it was meant to be, as his character dominated the sheepish Ivan Curry (Russell Hodgkinson), his younger friend Nicky Giblin (Shawn Telford)and his younger brother, the troubled Sharky (Hans Altwies) in the drama. Prost Amerika has reviewed many shows at the Rep but can honestly say that Griffin's portrayal of Richard Harkin was the most dominating single performance we have seen here. And there's some very tough competition as the Rep seems to attract some very fine actors. Selfish, loud, bossy and drink-sodden, yet you can't help but like Richard, whose blindness is played to perfection by Griffin. In fact Griffin wryly observed to me afterwards that he's going to be covered in bruises by the end of the run. These guys aren't afraid to take a bump for the sake of art.

Sean G. Griffin as Richard, Russell Hodgkinson as Ivan, Frank Corrado as Mr. Lockhart, Shawn Telford as Nicky, and Hans Altwies as Sharky
Sean G. Griffin as Richard, Russell Hodgkinson
as Ivan, Frank Corrado as Mr. Lockhart, Shawn
Telford as Nicky, and Hans Altwies as Sharky
Photo: Chris Bennion
The play starts with James "Sharky" Harkin tidying up the house after a night's drinking. Guinness cans litter the floor, and so do the remnants of the party as one by one, overnight guests awake. Sharky looks distant and troubled as he tidies the debris. He is an unsettled man and we find out why, as the other characters proceed to tell him what a loser he is and we learn more about him. He has returned to Baldoyle, north of Dublin, having messed up his latest job opportunity in Lehinch, County Clare. Like many, his troubles stem from the twin evils of his drinking and his sex drive. At last a character this reviewer can identify with (sorry, Harold Pinter's Betrayal)!

Hans Altwies plays Sharky as a man more focused on the events not going on in front of him, who keeps being dragged back to his reality by the minimal and mundane crises of the characters in his presence. From helping his blind older brother find 'bog roll' to the search for Ivan's glasses, Sharky's attempt to escape his surroundings is repeatedly foiled. But as the plot unfolds, there is a greater reality he is escaping from. One which is about to confront him in the harshest possible way. A mysterious stranger, Mr Lockhart (Frank Corrado) enters the house holding a dark secret. Corrado manages to resist overdoing the 'mwa-ha-ha-ha' evil component of his character when Griffin is on stage. To have done so would put him in competition for our attention with Richard, and that would have been a directing error. But by avoiding it, the play manages to beautifully juxtapose the struggle between the two worlds and two realities inhabiting Sharky's mind.

As usual, the Rep got it right as director Wilson Milam avoided this trap. In fact, Milam avoided a bunch of potential traps. The play is set at Christmas time but he spared us too many easy icons to sledgehammer that fact; and he avoided 'over-sentimentalising' the Irishness, an irritating habit which could have ruined the play. So I'd like to give a tip of the hat to the production overall for not taking any easy shortcuts and letting the actors, the story and the drama do the talking, (especially at this time of year when fake Irishness can dominate our cultural Zeitgeist).

Griffin took full advantage of that. He shouted, ranted and raved his way through the part but punctuated it by frequent moments of thoughtfulness. Griffin played Harkin as a man who sometimes sees a bigger picture, a fact which played brilliantly into the character's physical blindness apparently caused when he hit his head falling into a skip (that's a dumpster over here)! Also to Griffin's credit, he kept the accent constant throughout plenty of dialogue of varying volumes, while retaining the ability to be both heard and understood by the audience.

Recently the Seattle Rep extended the run of Betrayal to March 28th. Don't be surprised if Seafarer's run is extended too. Sorry Sean, but you need to take a few more bumps, so that a few more Seattleites can see Seafarer.

ACT Theater and other Venues
Moisture Festival

March 11 - April 5

PREVIEW: March 11-15 Grand Varietè shows and Libertease Burlesque shows ACT-A Contemporary Theatre 700 Union Street, Seattle, WA TICKETS: Price range $10 - $25 TICKETS: on-sale now www.acttheatre.org

March 19-April 5 Comedy/Varietè shows Hale's Palladium at Hale's Brewery 4301 Leary Way NW, Seattle, WA TICKETS: Price range $7.50-$20 TICKETS: on-sale now www.brownpapertickets.com

March 20-March 25 SIFF Cinema - Films inspired by Comedy/Varietè/Vaudeville/Burlesque 321 Mercer Street, Seattle Center TICKETS: on-sale now: www.siff.net/cinema/index.aspx

The Moisture Festival returns for the sixth annual springtime celebration of Comedy/Varietè and Burlesque. The Moisture Festival's Varietè shows feature a rapid succession of acts showcasing comedy along side awe-inspiring physical and mental dexterity, with poignant moments of strength and delicate beauty. Each show is propelled by a live show band. Varietè has its roots in the Music Halls of 19th century England. It evolved into Cabaret in Europe and Vaudeville in America. Due to the talented artists currently working in this genre, it is still fresh, exciting and tremendous fun for the audience. Word of this springtime event’s amenable audiences and the artist’s camaraderie has spread around the USA and beyond, enhancing the festival's reputation as the major event for this exhilarating form of entertainment.

WHAT'S NEW AT THE FESTIVAL: 2009 is a year of exploring exciting new territory for the Moisture Festival. For the first time the Festival will have its grand opening downtown at ACT - A Contemporary Theatre. As part of ACT's Central Heating Lab, in the beautiful Falls Theatre, 5 Grand Varietè Shows (family friendly) and 5 Burlesque Shows (18+) will come to life, all celebrating the wonderful surprises that continue to hold Comedy/Varietè's endearing spot in the history of live entertainment. Starting March 19th, The Moisture Festival continues at Hale's Palladium in Fremont/Ballard for three more weeks of Comedy/Varietè shows. Created in a brewery warehouse, the atmosphere at The Palladium creates a chemistry between audience and performer that is an absolute joy to behold.

Benaroya Hall
Chieftains

February 17

 

The hall was packed and expectant for the arrival of a group that aren't legends in the opinion of anybody, but in the opinions of everybody. With possibly only the Dubliners being on their level, the Chieftains are simply the best in the business on the Celtic and Irish fok scene. Therefore their visit to Seattle was eagerly awaited and they did not disappoint.
 

But while they allowed a venting of their classics, Rocky Road to Dublin, Mná Na Héireann - a flute solo played by Matt Molloy, Mo Ghile Mear, The Foggy Dew and Cotton-eyed Joe, what was noticeable and admirable was that they found plenty premium space for up and coming artists.

Foremost among them was the Island of Lewis's beautiful  Alyth McCormack. Her solo album "People like me" is due for release next week, on February 23rd. Her lilting voice illuminated a hushed auditorium as an educated crowd, used to, and expecting quality, sat in awe as her incredible voice pierced the Benaroya's expectant air. Her enunciation was so good, even an ignorant Lowlander like me, could tell it was the Scots Gaelic rather than the Irish. She sang both lullaby and what appeared to be a children's counting song and then further demonstrated her versatility by singing in English and Irish Gaelic.

Paddy Moloney and Matt Molloy seemed to love her and these guys just keep on trying new stuff. Twenty years ago, I saw them in Glasgow, when they had just returned from a tour of China. They applied their fiddling style to Chinese tunes they had learned while there. Last night in Seattle showed they are still trying out new ideas, rather than churning out old favourites to keep an aging fan base happy. This is great to see and a lesson for many a fading rock band.

If Scotland's Alyth was the vocal highlight, then it was that third Celtic nation of Canada that provided the other treat. Jon Pilatzke may have the look of a science professor but that man can do everything. At the start, he accompanied the Chieftians on the fiddle, and then looked on as brother Nathan  with the sociology lecturer look), came on and performed a style of dancing that probably has a name, but only Canadians know it. From the town of Eganville, Ontario, very near the Quebec border,  Jon's fiddling style seemed to have a French influence. But then he shocked us all by putting down the fiddle, and when he joined Nathan in the dancing with a dexterity and glee, only one thing was lacking, a woman's touch. So the nimble and beautiful Cara Butler duly joined them and their dance routines showed a creativeness and inventiveness, that surprised and delighted an audience which had primarily come for the music.

There was plenty more, a Scottish pipe band, Triona Marshall modestly playing the harp, Kevin Coneff on the bhodran, Jeff White on guitar and Deannie Richardson on the fiddle and mandolin; all performed in the shadow of the great Molloy and Moloney but who were rightfully given a chance to shine individually.

If you're in San Francisco, Santa Rosa, Mesa, Fort Worth, Houston, - or one of the many other cities yet to be visited on this tour, don't miss this. You can see the full tour schedule here:- Chieftains Tour Dates.

Triple Door - Lisa Hannigan

February 16

Lovely Lisa By Kristen Gill

Gavin Glass (l), Lisa Hannigan (c), and Donagh Malloy (r)
Gavin Glass, Lisa Hannigan, Donagh Malloy
Photo: Kristen Gill
Irish singer Lisa Hannigan transports you to another world with her surreal voice that is two parts angelic, one part sass. This duality is reflected in her clothing, as tonight she outfitted herself in bold red tights and boots on bottom, with a soft blue and white flowered dress on top. She has a softer sound and attitude to her female counterparts Feist or Cat Power, and plays diverse instruments, such as the harmonium (bought in a store in NYC, and which needs some love) and the mouth piano. Her voice, quite literally, puts you at ease.

Lisa is accompanied by four other band members (Gavin Glass, who had a well-received opening act, Donagh Malloy, Shane Fitzsimmons, and Tomo), who playrd guitar, stand up bass, drums, banjo, horns, and mouth piano, amongst other instruments. At one point, the tour manager came out to play the xylophone.

At times I could close my eyes and feel like I was on the corner of a Parisien street, with the sounds of accordian and Lisa's sweet, sweet voice like a birdsong. In "An Ocean And A Rock", When she sings "Let's get lost, me and you" you want to take her up on the offer. Other favorites were "Pistachio" and "Lille", as well as an encore of an Iron & Wine cover, "Until They Cut Me Down". They ended the night with "I Don't Know", my personal favorite, which started slow but crescendoed to a rocking high.

After the show, the entire band came out to talk to their fans, who were most appreciative. Every now and then a band comes along that is truly able to take advantage of the ambience and play to the good sound quality of the Triple Door. This was one of those bands. Lisa Hannigan can lull me with her lullabies anytime.

Memphis Logo

5th Avenue
Memphis

January 27 - February 15

 



Regular attenders at the 5th Avenue Theater know that for something to be the best the 5th has ever put on, it has to be very good. To say that a show doesn't quite top everything that has gone before does not mean it's bad show, it just means that they have failed to reach the dizzy heights they did with Cabaret and the Drowsy Chaperone. Memphis falls into that second category. It's fine but just not the best that this excellent theater can do.

Huey Calhoun (Chad Kimball) is an unsuccessful working class man who drifts in and out of jobs. He has one passion, rock music. His problem is that he is white, lives in 1950s Tennessee and the music he loves is played and listened to exclusively by the black population. He walks into the Club Delray in the black part of Memphis with a mission to bring their music to a wider audience. He encounters hostility and scepticism, racism and intransigence. Some of the characters that stand in his way are a little stereotypical and no-one gets too much depth. But a musical about music doesn't really necessitate great character development.

Huey (Chad Kimball, seated), his Mama (Cass Morgan), Bobby (James Monroe Iglehart), Gator (Derrick Baskin), and Delray (J. Bernard Calloway)
Huey (Chad Kimball, seated) and (left to right), Mrs Calhoun
(Cass Morgan), Bobby (James Monroe Iglehart), Gator
(Derrick Baskin), and Delray (J. Bernard Calloway)
Photo: Chris Bennion


However the songs in musicals can have one of two functions. They can provide an artificial means to put music into a play thus making it a musical, or they can advance the storyline or provide an explanation or background information to one of the characters. If you listen to "Money Makes the World Go Round" in Cabaret, it tells you nothing new but merely underlines a point. The numbers in Memphis fall into the other category. There is relevant information in them. Or at least, there may have been. Sadly, the words were occasionally hard to decipher. It's hard to say whether this was a problem with the sound, but it did detract from the flow of the night, and one suspects and hopes that the 5th technical folk will have this sorted out very soon.

However, that wasn't true of all the songs, and all the singers, and two performers in particular excelled. James Monroe Iglehart has more of the figure of an opera singer than a ballet dancer, but he excelled both musically and rhythmically. In the role of Bobby, a patron at the Club Delray, he enunciated every line of his anthems perfectly and his dance routines enthralled an audience that was eager to see the big man move. He has been featured on the Prince Ali CD Curbside Service and his solos reinvigorated an audience which had occasionally given up trying to make out what was being sung.

"the sweetness of a canary and the emotion of a preacher"

If Iglehart was the male star, then Montego Glover as Felicia, was the outstanding female performer. This lady has a voice with the sweetness of a canary and the emotion of a preacher. It is a heady mix and Memphis was at its musical best when she was singing solos. Frequently torn between the conflicting demands of her love for Calhoun, her loyalty to her community and her drive to succeed as a singer, her internal conflicts sparked more emotional pull in me than the tired old didactic about good music succeeding in the face of intransigent racism. Sometimes Memphis had the political subtlety of the Blues Brothers mated with the Dukes of Hazard. Not that this message is in any way past the date where it still needs saying, but it just seemed a little out of tune with the current mood of the country the audience lives in, and was on occasion hammered home a little more than it needed to be to a politcally conscious Seattle audience.

Overll, not a bad night out, especially if the sound issues are sorted out. Some of the songs are very powerful, the dancing is colourful and entertaining, and lastly, some of the props capture the era neatly.

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Night Cap - A Burlesque Show
Triple Door

February 6

Miss Lily Verlaine's increasingly famous burlesque troupe performed the third installment of Nightcap, featuring live music by The Djangomatics, the talents of Waxie Moon, Ernie Von Schmaltz, Inga Ingenue and hosted by Ben DeLaCreme. Lily of course also performed, as did two new young burlesque starlets, Bunny Monroe and friend, who aided Lily in a closing sketch, themed around Cleopatra.

The highlight of the night was probably Ernie though, the beer gutted lothario who perfroms a striptease charged with all the sexuality of a walrus reading the telephone directory. And it's hilarious, especially his Riverdance spoof, which gave the much derided original, more of the derision it so richly deserves

Lily is beautiful and graceful as ever, and showed off her classical ballet training in one sketch. The event wasn't quite as bawdy and crude as one might expect form a burlesque show that starts at 10.30pm, but that's not everyone's cup of tea.

A few more dirty jokes might have helped - at least to take one's mind off the incredible beauty that Miss Verlaine and Miss Ingenue display, pasties and all!

Pacific Northwest Ballet - Jewels


January 29-February 7, 2009

Louise Nadeau
Louise Nadeau in Emeralds,
part of George Balanchine's Jewels.
Photo: © Angela Sterling

Emotions High as Tributes Paid to Retiring Nadeau
 

On a rare and memorable night at McCaw Hall, the proceedings opened with a glowing tribute to retiring PNB star Louise Nadeau from PNB Artistic Director Peter Boal. "Louise is a rare, irreplaceable artistic treasure. She embodies the ethereal lightness of ballet, carries us away with her acting, shocks with spot on wit, and always fills the stage with warm humanity. Our lives are richer for having watched Louise perform. She reminds us of the heights our profession can attain," Boal said earlier when announcing her retirement.

Louise has long been a favourite of Prost Amerika and much as news of her retirement at the end of the season was greeted with sadness here, the glowing tribute to her before the show made us feel that we were sharing the loss with our larger family of PNB fans. The mood of the audience was emotional as the tribute was made and one wonders what effect it had on the dancers behind the stage. Louise will make a final performance on June 7th at 6.30 in a Season Encore Performance: A Celebration of Louise Nadeau, which is sure to be a sell out. PNB, Prost Amerika and the extended family of ballet supporters will miss her. Tickets are now on sale for that.

Ariana Lallone
Ariana Lallone had an Outstanding Night
Photo: © Angela Sterling
However to assuage our grief, last night a new star may have been born. Although a member of the PNB since 1987 and a Principla Ballerina since 1993, the Rozann-Zimmerman trained Ariana Lallone made such an impact last night for her performance in Rubies that one found it hard to stop talking about her for quite a while. In fact, Rubies - the middle section of Balanchine's three piece show - stood out as the centrepiece, and artistically and sensually eclipsed all that went before and after.

Set to the music of Igor Stravinsky, its sheer sensuality and dare I say sexiness, delighted certainly less traditional audience members and seemed to enthrall the younger (by which I mean grandchildren hoped for but not in the pipeline yet) section of the audience. Anyone who tells you ballet can't be extremely sensual should sit down and watch Rubies. One wonders whether it may have been suited to be the final piece of the night, such was the youth and verve with which Ariana and others entertained.

The performance opened with Emeralds, set to Gabriel Fauré's music, and the audience's breath was taken as soon as the curtain raised. The set and lighting, all tinged in emerald green, were outstanding. The audience applauded spontaneously which again may have been unnerving for the dancers immediately after the tribute. In fact, the audience were unusually noisy on this night and it seems the auspiciousness of the occasion may have affected them as much as the performers.

Louise Nadeau Fund Established
Through the generosity of PNB Patron Dr. Joe Norman, Pacific Northwest Ballet has announced the establishment of the Louise Nadeau Endowed Fund to honor Ms. Nadeau for her remarkable career and invaluable contribution to the Company. Dr. Norman will match every dollar contributed to the Louise Nadeau Endowed Fund, up to $100,000. In recognition of Ms. Nadeau’s love of the works of George Balanchine and her renowned interpretations of his choreography, gifts to the Fund will particularly assist PNB in keeping the works of Balanchine central for the Company.

Pearl Fishers
Seattle Opera
January 10 - 24, 2009

By Victoria Rimoczi

Mary Dunleavy as Leïla
Mary Dunleavy as Leïla
© Photo: Rozarii Lynch
George Bizet once penned "Let us have fantasy, boldness, unexpectedness, enchantment - above all, tenderness, morbidezza!" Tonight, the Seattle Opera took us on an incredible journey, elevating us from the mundane trials and tribulations of the rain and gloom of Seattle in the winter and into a world filled with passion, full blooded emotion and light.

Much like the deep sea diver, at the top of Act I, bringing up the glowing pearl from the depths of the ocean we found ourselves carried away with the beautiful vocal lines of the four main characters Zurga (Christopher Feigum), Nadir (William Burden), Leila (Mary Dunleavy) and Nourabad (Patrick Carfizzi).

Our story opens on a company of pearl fishers on the coast who chose Zurga as chief. He and his friend Nadir sing the famous "Au fond du temple saint" as they recall their former rivalry for the hand of the beautiful priestess Leila and how they swore never to see her again. Just as they have finished their oath of fidelity, a veiled priestess arrives to pray and sing for the pearl fishers. Nadir recognizes Leila and is filled with passion as he sings the infamous "Je crois encore entendre". She answers back in prayer fueling his passion as the curtain closes on Act I.

In act two, the high priest Nourabad warns her of what will happen should she break her vows - Death. She sings "Comme autrefois" saying back she never breaks her word, referencing a necklace she wears which was given to her by a fugitive she hid, even as she had a dagger to her heart. Nourabad exits and Nadir enters. The stage heats up as the two sing the beautiful duet "Ton coeur n'a pas compris" to the raging storm in the background. Nourabad returns, summons the people and Zurga first spares his best friend Nadir's life, only to recant when he realizes the woman in question is Leila. No mercy, the sentence? As you guessed it, death again.

The stage opens on the third act and Zurga expresses his remorse for his condemnation of Nadir. Exhausted, he falls at the entrance to his tent and Leila appears. She pleads for Nadir, offering her own life to save his. As she is leaving, she gives a necklace to a young fisherman and asks him to take it to her mother once she is dead. Zurga recognizes the necklace as the one he had given to a young girl who refused to deliver him to his enemies. Zurga now knows what he must do. The scene changes to a wild bacchanal, when a red light is seen in the distance. Zurga cries out the camp is on fire. The people rush out to fight the flames while Zurga unfastens the chains and bids them flee. When everyone returns Zurga is shot and the closing scene is one of prayer their god whose wrath they fear.

There really is just one word to describe the opera I saw tonight. Stunning. The voices were all magnificent. The infamous "Au found du temple" pulled at my heart strings and just wouldn't let go. The blending of the voices was just impeccable. Christopher Feigum had an elegant charm to his robust bass-baritone which was perfectly balanced by tenor William Burden whose voice soared through the orchestra, making hearts flutter as he sang the seductive "Je crois encore entendre" as if he were singing to each of us alone. Soprano Mary Dunleavy spun her voice with a shimmer that was light as a spider web and strong as steel. Her soaring vocal line captured the conflicted character of Leila with the innocence of a child and the passion of a woman.

Principal dancers Bobby Briscoe and Lisa Gillespie added their strong, powerful dancing to the evening, keeping the drama of the stage moving forward. There was always something to see, something to catch your attention and keep you engaged and emotionally invested in the production.

Special mention must be made to award winning Neil Peters Jampolis, the lighting designer. I have never had the fortune to see a show where the lighting was in fact so masterfully done. Boyd Ostroff's sets are lovely and the orchestra and chorus are fantastic as usual under the skilful baton of Gerard Schwartz.

Land of the Sweets - Burlesque
Triple Door
December 16 - 23, 2008

By Katja Klöpfer

After braving the snow, ice and terrible public transport delays I was amazed to see a full house at the Triple Door. I would soon find out why; it's a fun-filled great spectacle.

The emcee Jasper was literally all over the stage; dancing, singing and prancing around. He introduced the different acts and spun them all into one tale.

The story was that he had to get his house ready for Christmas and the Snow Flakes, three very sexy dancers were helping him. We encountered Russian tap dancers and Asian tea ladies and the result was always the same, they all took pretty much all their clothes off to be left with just nipple tassles and tiny g-strings that made the audience roar with delight.

There were also two male dancers, one obviously schooled as a classic ballet dancer while the other liked to slip into a bikini and high heels and join the girls. The absolute highlight was the acrobatic acts, especially two very talented girls in one ring hanging from the ceiling. It was quite unbelievable how many acrobatic contortions they were able to perform all the while teasing the audience with sexy positions. It was great to see that all the girls were normal size, there were no bulemic dancer types but real, curvy, sexy ladies. It was cute and sexy but not overtly sexual.

Audience participation was whipped up by Jasper and a good time was had by all. The perfect place for the company's Christmas party or a night out with the girls or boys.

NEWS: Due to ovewhelming demand, Land Of The Sweet​s has added TWO MORE SHOWS ; this Saturday, December 20th, at 7pm and 10pm. Visit www.landofthesweets.com or www.thetripledoor.net for tickets!

Salt Water - Live Girls! Theater (2220 NW Market St, Lower Level)


February 19th – March 7th

Live Girls! Theater is proud to sponsor Poor Choice Theatre's world premiere production of Salt Water, a new play by Gina Young

The Play:
Sybil and Alison are the kind of friends who can finish each other's sentences. But when the two young women trespass on a New Jersey beach after dark one night, their friendship unravels and ultimately self-destructs-- with the help of a pimply lifeguard, a giant frog, a stray asteroid and a deliciously manipulative mermaid. Salt Water is a play about the death of a friendship and the sacrifices we make for the people we love.

The Players:
Featuring the talents of Andrea Avila as Alison, Jade Yung as Sybil, Gina Bling (of Team Gina, myspace.com/teamgina) as the Mermaid & Shey Oliver as Todd/Lifeguard/Etc

Rock 'n' Activism:
Poor Choice Theatre is proud to team up with local musical talent and activism to present an unconventional evening of rock, theatre and activism. No two performances will be the same! Sets by local musicians are followed immediately by a performance of Salt Water.

When: February 19th-21st at 8pm, February 26th and 28th at 8pm, March 1st at 5pm, March 5th-7th at 8pm OPENING NIGHT: Thursday, February 19th at 8pm Who: Poor Choice Theatre, sponsored by Live Girls! Theater. Cast: Andrea Avila, Jade Yung, Gina Bling, Shey Oliver

Tickets: $10-$15, Student, Senior and TPS Discounts Available www.brownpapertickets.com

Black Nativity
Intiman Theater
November 29 - December 27, 2008


By David Wittstock

It was clear to us early on what “Black Nativity” means to this area when we overheard many spectators asking others, “Is this your first time? This is my (insert years). You’re going to love it!”

A holiday tradition at the Intiman now playing in its eleventh consecutive year, “Black Nativity: A Gospel Song Play” by Langston Hughes is a fun and energetic musical experience that gets the audience out of their seats clapping and dancing along.

“Black Nativity” is a two act play, the first of which tells the traditional nativity story and the second which follows more of a traditional gospel service complete with short readings and religious songs. To the casual observer, Act I is the more enjoyable of the two as it features the Christmas story and many familiar Christmas carols. Act II, while still great musically, focuses on themes surrounding Christmas rather than following a line which could be frustrating to those who thinking they were getting a full Christmas show.

That being, the effort put into the production as well as the quality of the dancers and soloists more than make up for the lack of story in the second act. The solos are performed with passion and confidence with Evelina Y. King (“This Little Light of Mine”) and Josephine Howell (“Alabaster Box”) standing out in particular.

“Black Nativity” is a warm pick up in a cold season and a must see for anyone who appreciates gospel music.

Nutcracker
Pacific Northwest Ballet
November 28—December 30, 2008


PNB’s annual celebration of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece “The Nutcracker” is well known as an evergreen feature in Seattle’s arts calendar. There’s a reason why. Young children and those who suspended the passage of time to become children for the night delighted in the pageantry provided by such PNB regulars as Mara Vinson, Seth Orza, as well as a supporting cast of younger and colorfully clad dancers.

Nutcracker
Pacific Northwest Ballet Company dancers and
PNB School students in Nutcracker.
© Photo: Angela Sterling
Classical ballet was provided for the performance by the fanciful Waltz of the Flowers and ever romantic pas de deux of Clara and the young Prince. The sets, originally designed by Maurice Sendak in 1983, never fail to enthrall the audience with their panoramic spectrum, and the children’s whimsical costumes with their kaleidoscopic colours fluttered around the stage with an abandon, which had several of the youngest members of the audience imitating them to the amusement of all except their parents. Sendak, whose most famous work is the children’s book Where the Wild Things Are (1963), created scenery and costumes which provided a delightful backdrop to the proceedings, as if a 19th-century schoolboy’s toy box had come to life.

No review of the Nutcracker would be complete without talking about the tree. PNB are the greenest of green of arts institutions and this underlined by the fact they create trees. Constructed by Boeing engineers in 1984 in a Boeing flight hangar and is made of materials used in airplane construction. The tree weighs 950 pounds and grows from 14 to 28 feet in height during the fight scene.

From start to end, the PNB’s Nutcracker was a jubilee of color and pageantry, embellished by the atmosphere provided by the lieing snow outside the hall. Newsweek says “Pacific Northwest Ballet can proudly lay claim to one of the world’s most recognized and celebrated productions of Nutcracker.” It is easy to see why.

Nutcracker is an annual and welcome feature in the Seattle which contemporaneously acts as a great introduction to the art of ballet for young children. Take some time away from Macy’s and the Stephen Colbert Christmas special and give the kids, old and young, some magic.

All the Kings Men Logo

All the King's Men
Intiman Theatre
October 3 – November 8, 2008

Huey “Kingfish” Long is a political legend in the south, especially his home state of Louisiana, and was the subject of a 1995 Thomas Schlamme film starring John Goodman in the title role. He was governor of the state from 1928 until his assassination in 1935. A more than controversial character, his politics were left inasmuch as he believed in state support for welfare services for the poor, however his methods were dubious as he tried to gain total control of the state political machinery.

Eleven years after Long’s death, Robert Penn Warren wrote the novel “All the King’s Men”Sethrza received his first Pulitzer Prize a year later. Based on the life of Long, the novel's focal point is the career of Willie Stark, a self-proclaimed hick politician, who began his political life conducting an honest fight against a construction contract being awarded nepotistically. However, learning that politics is a dirty game, Stark begins his transformation into the manipulative end product.

Adrian Hall created this adaptation of the novel in 1987 for the resident acting company of the Trinity Repertory Company of Rhode Island. 18 actors take the stage and the musical works of Randy Newman are part of Hall’s adaptation.

John Procaccino as Willie Stark and Leo Marks as Jack Burden
John Procaccino as Willie Stark
and Leo Marks as Jack Burden
Photo: Chris Bennion
In this Intiman performance, directed by Pam McKinnon, Leo Marks takes the lead role of Jack Burden, a journalist who ends up working for Stark. The character of Burden is both part of the storyline and a narrative technique for relaying information to the audience and Leo Marks, making his Intiman debut, largely succeeded in carrying both roles although on a couple of occasions the play seemed to become more about his life than his perspective on Willie Stark. This sadly slowed it down a little as it reduced the stage time of the excellent John Procaccino whose performance as Willie Stark cannot be faulted. Combining the bombast of a southern Rush Limbaugh with the anti-establishment crusaderism of a more self-confident Ralph Nader, Procaccino’s Willie Stark is a sight to behold, with the hard work he’s put into the nonverbal mannerisms of the character clear to see. You root for Stark to such an extent, despite the increasingly malicious nature of his tactics, that Burden’s justifications in asides to the audience become unnecessary. Nevertheless in the role of carrying the play from end to end, Marks did a fine job in the Burden role and it is to be hoped that his Intiman career is long and varied.

The supporting cast was strong, with special mention going to Deirdre Madigan as Stark’s secretary and lover Sadie Burke, and Eddie Levi Lee as redneck oaf, brute and Lieutenant Governor Tiny Duffy. Lee is a big man but managed to keep his character in Willie Stark’s shadow by keeping his occupation of the stage proportionate. It was a job very well done by Lee (also in his Intiman debut), and in some scenes was necessary to let Procaccino shine.

The play was scheduled by the Intiman to coincide with election season and while it would be grossly unfair to liken Willie Stark to either presidential candidate, some people might identify those vested interests he took on in the early part of his career with modern equivalents, and others might see echoes of his less salubrious methods in some of the mud-slinging going on this week.

We would recommend All the King's Men but should alert you that there is copious use of racial epithets in the first half which may offend some audience members. Songs by Randy Newman include “Debutante’s Ball”, “Louisiana 1927”, “Rednecks”, “Guilty”, :”Kingfish”, and “Rollin”. Additionally, “At the River” is a traditional hymn and “Every Man a King” was written by Huey Long himself, with Castro Carazo.

Seattle Rep Logo

The Night Watcher
Seattle Rep Theater
September 25 – October 26, 2008

 

Charlayne Woodward
Charlayne Woodward
©Photo Chris Bennion
Some people like one person shows, some do not. If you’re one of those that do, then The Night Watcher is a show that you should not miss. Charlayne Woodard wrote and performed this show and if there was one phrase that was continually overheard on leaving the theatre, that phrase would be “She’s amazingly talented, isn’t she?”

Charlayne’s first solo play ‘Pretty Fire’ received LA and NAACP Awards for best play and best playwright. Since then, she has performed ‘Neat’, ‘In Real Life’, and now ‘The Night Watcher’ becomes her fourth.

The play itself is more of a series of loosely woven together tales of the people in Charlayne’s life and how their travails tangentially impacted hers as each of their dramas pull her inwards. She has clearly led a very rich personal life and remarkably the tales she tells are true. It begins with Charlayne receiving a call from Alfre Woodard (no relation) asking Charlayne who is black and her husband Harris who is white to adopt a mixed race baby. In declining the offer, Charlayne and her husband Harris realize that biological parenthood is not for them.

"I can’t have a baby. If I have a baby...I can’t be the baby, right Harris?"

But far from cutting children out of their lives, they embark on an odyssey of proving correct the African motto, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Charlayne becomes involved in the parenting of a variety of children in several capacities, godmother, auntie and just friend, as she voluntarily and often involuntarily gets drawn into their troubled lives. The initial decision of the couple not to have children is a conclusion we rarely see eulogized in our cultural fabric and it is initially glossed over until Ms Woodard recounts an episode that happened to her on a New York train. An African man with whom she strikes up a conversation becomes incensed at her childlessness and of course co-opts god as being in agreement with him to bolster his argument.

But it would be wrong to suggest that the storylines themselves are the main attraction of “The Night Watcher”. Charlayne’s delivery is powerful and her voice flexible. Whether she is imitating the accent of that large African man or singing the gospel music of a baptism, it is clear that Charlayne is extremely adept at quick switching of voices and characters. Perhaps the most stunning demonstration of this is in a sketch called 'Puppies and Babies' where Ms Woodard in a rare moment of her being less than the epitome of logic and reason is buying a $150 coat for her Maltese terrier. Her mother calls and questions her priorities. We see Charlayne on the defensive and yes, she is so good, that briefly you can forget there is only one actor involved. This is Charlayne at her strongest and it just happened to dovetail with the moment the script is at its least serious moment.

Many of the other tales shine a less pleasant light into the vagaries of being a child in a hostile environment and it is where the deficiencies of the birth parents of the children in her life are at their height that Charlayne is forced into direct action. The relationships between her and the real parents are sometimes awkward but you as the audience are involved enough to feel her pain, take her side and will her on.

This play is hard work to watch and requires your concentration if you’re to get the full value of it. At the start of each vignette, she explains who the characters are and if you miss a beat here, you may be playing catch up which in turn means you may not get the full entertainment value of what follows. That would be a shame because Charlayne Woodard is a high energy high drama night out. Take a night to watch the Night Watcher.

Rosa de Rio Logo

Teatro ZinZanni - A Rosa de Rio
October 23 - February 15, 2009

“Rosa de Rio” takes its name from the presence of Brazilian star Paula Gelly. Already established in her native country, she brings her considerable singing talent to the Spiegeltent in Seattle. Her apart, there was not much Brazilian about this show, whose strengths relied more on the individual performances of its cast than on a strong storyline as was the case in “Quest for a Queendom”. This is not a major issue for an attraction like Teatro ZinZanni, where visitors come primarily to to dine well and be entertained from one course to the next. As long as the acts are good, everyone is happy, and good acts are exactly what Artistic Director Norm Langill provided.

Ukrainian beauty Vita Radionova has returned to Teatro ZinZanni, putting together a stunning display of contortion and dexterity that manages to be both sensual and acrobatic and leaves most of the male audience speechless. If anything, her turn tonight was even more spectacular than in last fall’s “Hearts on Fire”, and with her appearance “Rosa de Rio” moved up into top gear.

Following Vita Radionova’s act was the main turn of Berlin comedian and acrobat Sabine Rieck. European visitors may have some reservations about the national stereotype of her first appearance as a bossy German in a security uniform, but no one will fail to enjoy her turn on center stage spinning hoops, seemingly effortlessly though this kind of thing obviously takes practice and dedication. Added to this talent are Sabine’s comedic abilities, and as Teatro ZinZanni is famous for its ensemble approach whereby performers are encouraged to develop their own routines, it may be that Sabine will develop her character further over the run of the show.

Wayne Doba was once lauded by no less than Donald O’Connor as a “throwback to the old Vaudeville days” and indeed his caricature of the talentless but willing Uncle Dick, the professional entertainer, harked back to the music hall days. Doba’s act had some awkward moments initially, but improved as the show went on. His double act with his real-life wife Andrea Conway Doba was at its best with their tap-dance routine, although this ability was somewhat at odds with the character Doba had been building up of a wannabe entertainer whose talentless enthusiasm was the target of comedy. But if anyone insists that the art of tap dancing no longer has a market in this technological age, please urge them to have a drink and watch the Dobas tap and briefly scan the smiling faces of the audience around them.

If this show focused less on a loose story line and was more just a showcase for some talented individuals, no act was more core to that theme than perennial Teatro ZinZanni favourites Les Petit Frères. In the finest tradition of the Three Stooges and Buster Keaton, they perform slapstick comedy accompanied by some considerably daring acrobatics, all within a confined space with diners very close to the action. These guys are regulars at Teatro ZinZanni, but even if you have seen them before, their act is always worth returning to see.

Frank Ferrante as Caesar
Frank Ferrante as Caesar
Which brings us to the star of the show, Frank Ferrante as Chef Caesar. Ferrante is considerably less camp than some previous Teatro ZinZanni main characters, which given his thespian credits is no surprise. He comes to Teatro ZinZanni having been described by the New York Times as “the greatest living interpreter of Groucho Marx’s material” after playing the title role in “Groucho: A Life in Revue”. To my mind, there was a little more of the Mel Brooks in this performance too and this explains where Ferrante succeeds, and why he is wise to concentrate more on the delivery of the line and less on the faux femininity.

Rightly, Ferrante refuses to rely on total camp for his character and brought some of his personality to the role to replace that stereotype. He is clearly at his best during the segments when he brings diners up to the stage for interaction. You always tread on a tightrope when humiliating audience members and Ferrante has that aspect perfect. Some of his ad-lib lines were better than the basic script and it was at this point where the show reached its peak. Finally, local singer Kathleen Roché-Zujko debuts as the diva, and shows off her amazing soprano as well as her acting skills.

Last but certainly not least, the meal was very good, probably the best yet since Teatro ZinZanni’s installation at this venue, and as always they integrated its serving into the entertainment in a variety of innovative ways.

Reservations: 206.802.0015 or at zinzanni.org or at the box office at 222 Mercer Street.

Boom Logo

Seattle Rep - Boom
November 13 - December 14


 


PREVIEW:
A nerdy marine biologist calculates that the end of the world is near and posts an online personals ad, hoping to romance the girl that will help him ensure the survival of the species. But when push comes to shove, saving life on earth on the first date proves to be a bit of a challenge. Exciting new playwright Nachtrieb brings us this funny, slightly warped and ultimately hopeful look at the apocalypse.

Janice Baird as Elektra
Nick Garrison as Jules and Chelsey Rives as Jo
Photo © Chris Bennion
Peter Sinn Nachtrieb is a San Francisco-based playwright whose works include boom, Hunter Gatherers, Colorado, Meaningless, and The Amorphous Blob. His work has been seen (or will be seen in 2008) off Broadway and across the country. He is currently under commission from Encore Theatre Company (SF) and South Coast Rep and is a 2008 Resident Playwright at the Playwrights Foundation, San Francisco. Peter holds a degree in Theater and Biology from Brown and an MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University.

This year, Jerry Manning celebrates his 25th season in theater. In 1984 he joined the staff of Arena Stage, where he worked in directing, casting, literary management, production management, fundraising and audience development with theater artists Zelda Fichandler, Tom Fichandler, Garland Wright and Jim Nicola. In 1994 Mr. Manning joined Jim Nicola at New York Theatre Workshop as an Artistic Associate. During his time in New York Jerry was alternately casting director and resident dramaturg for dozens of world-premiere works, notably Rent and Quills. For the last eight years Mr. Manning has made Seattle his home where he has been a senior member of Seattle Rep's artistic staff. Jerry has directed more than 30 productions around the country. He has done casting consultation for film (Forrest Gump, The Pelican Brief and others) and television (Ken Burn's The Civil War and others). He was recently named as Seattle Rep Producing Artistic Director.

Performance Details: Performances of boom are at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sundays. There will be no performance on Thursday, November 20 or Thursday, November 27. Post-play discussions will be held after performances on Sunday, November 30 at 2 p.m., Thursday , December 4 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, December 7 at 2 p.m. .

Seattle Opera - Elektra
McCaw Hall
October 18 - November 1

Janice Baird as Elektra
Janice Baird as Elektra
Photo © Patrice Nin, Toulouse
PREVIEW:
Seattle Opera’s fall production of Richard Strauss’s riveting drama Elektra opens at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall on October 18 and runs through November 1, 2008. Based on Sophocles’ ancient tragedy, the opera focuses on Agamemnon’s daughter Elektra and her manic obsession with avenging his murder. Elektra features some of Strauss’s most voluptuous music—the magnificent score, an enormous stream of orchestral sound, ranges from lush melodies to unearthly effects.

American soprano Janice Baird makes her West Coast debut as Elektra—a tour-de-force role for the soprano. Baird, who has sung Wagner and Strauss roles across Europe, will return to Seattle in August 2009 as the company’s new Brünnhilde in Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen. Most recently seen as Isolde at the Metropolitan Opera, she frequently appears as Richard Strauss’s Salome, Elektra, and the Dyer’s Wife in Die Frau ohne Schatten, and in such Wagner roles as Ortrud in Lohengrin and Senta in Der Fliegende Holländer.

Maestro Lawrence Renes also makes his Seattle Opera debut with Elektra. This dynamic young conductor has lent his baton to the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, and the Minnesota, Seattle, Houston, Detroit, and St. Louis Symphonies. In 2007 he conducted the European premiere of John Adams’ Dr. Atomic at Netherlands Opera, and will conduct its U.K. premiere in 2009 at English National Opera. Last year he conducted the U.S. premiere of Tan Dun’s Tea with Santa Fe Opera. Two-time Artist of the Year recipient Chris Alexander returns to Seattle to direct Elektra, with new costumes designed by Melanie Taylor Burgess. Sets (previously seen in 1996) were designed by the late Wolfram Skalicki, and lighting design will be done by Marcus Doshi in his Seattle Opera debut.

Making their Seattle debuts are German soprano Irmgard Vilsmaier as Elektra’s sister Chrysothemis, and British mezzo-soprano Rosalind Plowright as their mother Klytämnestra. Canadian tenor Richard Margison returns to Seattle Opera as Aegisthus. American bass-baritone Alfred Walker makes his Seattle Opera debut as Orestes, a role he recently sang for his La Scala debut.

Pacific Northwest Ballet - All Tharp
McCaw Hall
September 25

Kaori Nakamura and Charlie Neshyba-Hodges
Kaori Nakamura and
Charlie Neshyba-Hodges
Photo © Angela Sterling.
The PNB season opened with a bang as a three part program produced the unusual spectacle of standing ovations at each interval as well as at the end. The program consisted of two world premieres by renowned choreographer Twyla Tharp, “Opus 111” and “Afternoon Ball”, followed by her adaptation of Frank Sinatra classics called “Nine Sinatra Songs”. Tharp spent two months in Seattle working with the company to bring her two new pieces to life, and that intense period of hard work and focus has definitely paid off.

For “Opus 111”, Tharp set her choreography to the music of Johannes Brahms, in what PNB’s Education Programs Manager Doug Fullington informed us was Brahms’ last piece, a lushly romantic string quintet. Simple costumes of brown, orange, and lavender allowed the dance to flow without drawing the eye as twelve dancers participated in the Opus, mostly in two or three pairs at a time but all onstage at the stirring finale. The vocabulary was classical, with elements of folk dancing, and the swaying arm movements that are a Tharp standard. The piece featured several dancers who had been promoted since last season, most prominently Lucien Postlewaite, who has been promoted to principal rank at the PNB and seemed to revel in the new status as he performed with confidence and verve. Also performing in “Opus 111” were former corps de ballet members James Moore and recently married Rachel Foster, who are both new PNB soloists.

In stirring contrast to the colorful and well lit “Opus 111” was “Afternoon Ball”, Tharp’s second world premiere of the night. Set to “Autumn Ball of the Elves” by minimalist Russian composer Vladimir Martynov, Tharp immediately created an ironic contrast with dancers dressed as punks and street kids as her “elves”. Cloaked in near darkness, this piece contained two outstanding individual performances from Kaori Nakamura and Charlie Neshyba-Hodges, Tharp’s longstanding assistant. Nakamura had perfect physical control, at times performing a robotic dance somewhat reminiscent of techno street dancers in the 80s. Neshyba-Hodges was a guest dancer and as Tharp’s assistant brought something new and external to the company. His pale sneering goth character was brilliantly enacted, though his joy at bringing together his boss’s choreography with his fellow dancers’ interpretation, athleticism and grace shone on his face as he took a standing ovation at the end. The crowd stayed on its feet as Twyla Tharp herself came on the stage to take a bow and to share her flowers with each member of the cast in her own inimitable way.

The third section of the season opener was “Nine Sinatra Songs”, one of Tharp’s most popular pieces, set to the beat of some of the most legendary songs in the American cultural psyche. Nine elegantly clad couples interpreted the nine songs, in styles varying from severely intense to manic to lightly humorous as the dancers simulated 3am in a sleazy bar. “Strangers in the Night” performed by Rachel Foster and newcomer William Lin-Yee and the final “My Way” by the entire ensemble were the eye-catchers of a varying program, though Louise Nadeau also deserves a special mention for her uninhibited performance in “That’s Life”. Set under the glare of a ballroom mirror ball, the style was a radical departure from what had preceded, and a fine choice to round off this gala evening.

Chuanyun Li
Benaroya Hall
September 16

Chuanyun Li
Chuanyun Li
Orchestra Seattle's Fall Gala presented Chinese violinist Chuanyun Li, who delighted the audience at Benaroya Hall last night with a performance that not only brought smiles to the crowd in front of him but to the orchestra behind. After receiving rave reviews from the Seattle Times and countless other American critics, Li returned to Seattle for one night only with George Shangrow and Orchestra Seattle.

In the first half, the orchestra treated the audience to a rousing rendition of Brahms' Academic Festival Overture. After a round of applause they were joined by Li for the stunning showpiece The Butterfly Lovers Concerto (1958) by He Zhanhao and Chen Gang. His playing was both precise and emotive, evoking all the passion of the separated lovers. After the interval, Li performed Aram Khachaturian's great Violin Concerto in D minor with the orchestra, playing the faster passages with fiery intensity.

The delighted audience called Li back for not one but two encores, including an amazing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner played with his violin bow wrapped around the body of the violin.

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Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl
ACT Theatre
September 5 - October 5

 

Trick Danneker as Orpheus and<br>Renata Friedman as Eurydice
Trick Danneker as Orpheus and
Renata Friedman as Eurydice
Photo: Chris Bennion

by Ileana Vasquez

This play was written in 2000 by Sarah Ruhl and was inspired by the death of her father in 1994. Ruhl is considered to be “the most exciting young playwright to emerge from the American theatre in more than a decade” by ACT Artistic Director Kurt Beattie.

The stage which appeared to be more like the bottom of a pool or a public restroom was composed of weathered blue tile with elements of the productions props scattered about – dead leaves, brown paper, a rusty piped makeshift water fountain and intriguingly strings attached on both ends from the ceiling to the stage floor that when plucked emitted an ensemble of various guitar movements.

The play is ninety minutes without interval and takes place in two alternate worlds; the Land of the Dead and our world, that of the living. There were moments of humor which were well received by some of the audience and moments of hope. But overall it has to be said that the whole thing just didn’t knit together all that well and you left with the feeling that you hadn’t really understood it.

 

Mary Bliss Mather
Mary Bliss Mather
Photo by Victoria Lahti

God's Ear
Washington Ensemble Theatre
October 10 – November 10


by David Wittstock

“A sudden panic, a pang of grief” is the central experience around which a strange but captivating play is built in the Washington Ensemble Theatre’s newest production “God’s Ear”.

Debuting last year, “God’s Ear” is New York playwright Jenny Schwartz’s third effort to date and has been a critical success on the east coast as well as a finalist for the 2007 Susan Smith Blackburn Award, recognizing the best works by women in English-speaking theatre. Directing the west coast debut is Roger Benington who is returning to the Washington Ensemble Theatre for the third time after directing previous projects “Crave” and “Never Swim Alone”.

“God’s Ear” is a portrait of two parents grieving the death of their first child and struggling to communicate the grief they’re experiencing. The marriage of the parents, Ted (Michael Place) and Mel (Mary Bliss Mather), is torn apart by the death as each descends into cycles of blame, regret, anger, and fear.

Neither Ted nor Mel can bare to speak of their dead son and so stress this by speaking in a series of clichés and riddles that ultimately don’t mean anything. But there are times when they’re able to break through and touch on concrete issues and these moments are worth the wait. Adding to the surreal dialogue is a set featuring a giant hole, five layers deep which the characters weave in and out of throughout the play. If you aren’t confused enough already, the play also features characters such as a transvestite air stewardess, a life size GI Joe, and the Tooth Fairy.

The acting is excellent and is crucial to selling a script as offbeat as “God’s Ear”. Mary Bliss Mather in particular stands out as an unstable mother who seems desperate but terrified to confront a husband that has drifted out of touch. “God’s Ear” is odd and at times the language can be frustrating, but the script is compassionate towards its subject and characters making for a heartfelt meditation on loss.

God's Ear is directed by returning guest director Roger Benington (NEVER SWIM ALONE, CRAVE) and runs Thursdays – Mondays, Oct. 10 – Nov. 10, at 608 19th Ave East in Capitol Hill. Tickets $10-18.

Tease-O-Rama

TEASE-O-RAMA 2008!
Triple Door
September 26

By Angela Olsen

This show had it all! Every color, size, and age range imaginable was represented. There were sequins, tassels, fringe, fire, feathers, and appropriately placed pasties…what’s not to love?

From Miss Kitten on the Keys, an emcee with raunchy humor, the usual forced audience participation, to the von Foxies, Seattle's hottest comedy burlesque trio who did a skit on the "typical Seattle gal". This came complete with flannel shirts, Teva's with socks, thigh highs made out of long johns, and Space Needle pasties and was especially entertaining.

Catherine D'Lish, the final act, was a hot little red-head, decked out in the most beautiful outfit, taking it off, little by little. Her finale includes her in a giant champagne glass filled with sudsy water. Very sexy! I was mesmerized by the entertaining creativity of every artist.

Solas
SOLAS
Mairead, Eamon, Seamus, Winifred and Mick

Solas
Triple Door
September 30

SOLAS Seamus Egan, Winifred Horan, Mick McAuley, Eamon McElholm and Máiréad Phelan make up Solas and they entertained a very creditable crowd at the Triple Door. Starting with a slow melody by the extremely talented Seamus Egan on the flute with McElholm’s guitar, they incrementally added the remainder of the group as the set took off.

A combination of jigs, reels and waltzes were interspersed with stories before Phelan made her appearance as a vocalist. Playing mostly their own compositions naturally with an incline to tunes found on their latest album “Reunion”, they provided an excellent evening of Irish music which improved as the night went on, after some initial difficulties with balance. The highlight of the night was at the end when each of the musician’s was allowed a lengthy solo and it was here that once more Egan excelled with almost four minutes of incredibly high tempo flautistry which made you fear his head may explode.

Triple Door continues to bring quality from around the globe to Seattle and run a very efficient operation on the night with customers getting high levels of service without a well trained staff obstructing the view of the main attraction.

Seattle Rep Logo

Three Musketeers
Seattle Rep Theater
October 2 - November 15, 2008

by Diana Hassenger

Seattle Repertory Theatre brings us a new fast- paced adaptation of the Alexandre Dumas classic The Three Musketeer directed by Kyle Donnelly. This is a family-friendly version with a modern twist. Don’t worry the sword-fighting fun of the original is core to this fun action packed adventure.

Montana van Fliss and Ryan Shams
Montana von Fliss as
Sabine and Ryan Shams as
Aramis in The Three Musketeers
©Photo Chris Bennion
Playwright Ken Ludwig streamlines Dumas’ complex story and adds a beloved kid sister (Sabine) who sets upon Paris with her brother d’Artagnan. Why should the boys have all the fun? Sabine is a delightfully modern, spunky addition performed by Montana von Fliss. Other standout performances by Jim Abele as the evil Cardinal Richelieu and Alban Dennis as the dim-witted but loveable King Louis XIII add to the mix.

Ludwig also uses humor to glide over some of the more complicated political themes of 1600s France as explained by Porthos - "So now Christians are fighting each other about how much Latin they can use in church?" Kids and parents alike will enjoy the elaborate sword-fighting, modern set design and lush period costumes.

TICKETS: Tickets to The Three Musketeers are now on sale and start at $15. For ticket reservations, call the Seattle Repertory Theatre box office seven days a week at (206) 443-2222 or toll-free at (877) 900-9285, or go online at Seattle Rep website.

5th Avenue Theatre Logo

Drowsy Chaperone
5th Avenue Theater
October 29 - November 16, 2008

 

Drowsy Caperone
Photo: Joan Marcus
A man, seemingly lonely, sits in a chair in what looks like an urban studio apartment. He’s sad, he’s anxious; he tells us he's feeling blue. He cheers himself up by putting on an old record (yes children, a record), the 1928 musical comedy, "The Drowsy Chaperone" by the fictional writing team of Gable and Stein. He also acts as our host for the night, directly addressing the audience. The musical, as he admits, is fairly lousy. Yeah – the songs are good, but the storyline, set in New York during prohibition, is contrived. The characters are stereotypes.

Sound like a bad night out for you? You’d be so far wrong. The Drowsy Chaperone revels in its kitsch; and camp as Jonathan Crombie is as ‘the Man in the Chair’ (we never learn his name), his personality superbly embellishes some pretty snappy one-liners, and brilliantly overcomes what superficially would be seen as a feeble idea for a show.

The retrospective aspect of 21st century man looking back at the Roaring Twenties allows for some decent historical gags, and Crombie camps up the faux homosexual parts of his role in the classic manner of John Inman in “Are You Being Served”. This would have the potential to be cringeworthy were it not for the fact that Crombie is outstanding at it. He acts pretty much on his own as he has little interaction with the other characters, almost all of whom are stars in the musical. Which brings me to ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ herself.

Alicia Irving is radiant, sexy and melodramatic in the title role but she is one of those actors who brings up, not shows up, her supporting cast. Her performance as the alcoholic fading star gets critic points just for making me think of Liza Minelli; and what I loved most is that she, as well as the other stars, resisted the opportunity to overact with one glorious exception.

Although for me, she’s the star of the show; there are plenty of other solid performances. Georgia Engel is best remembered for her Emmy Award®-winning role as Georgette on the legendary “Mary Tyler Moore Show. She reprises her role of Mrs. Tottendale for the tour. And adorable she is too as the batty old woman who barely knows what’s going on around her. Her interaction with Underling, her butler, played by the ridiculously named Noble Shropshire, provided some excellent comedy moments outside the flow of the story. (Many apologies Nobby if that’s your real name.)

By the way that glorious exception I mentioned is Dale Hensley. As tall Latin lothario Aldolpho, his role is to (deliberately) embody the spirit of overacting and be a talentless ham who relies on poorly portrayed racial stereotypes. Hensley does awfulness superbly! No more so than in the scene after the fake intermission where the Man in the Chair mistakenly puts on the wrong record and we are treated accidentally to a scene from another, even more awful, musical "The Enchanted Nightingale", which is even more redolent with racial stereotypes. There we got to laugh at ourselves as much as at past attitudes to race, as we perhaps realized that something relatively inoffensive had just become so un-PC that we ceased to question whether it actually still offended anyone. I want to also give some praise to a small moment there. As the Man in the Chair hurriedly returned to stage to remove the offensive LP, the manner in which the troupe left the stage was positively Pythonesque in its comic genius.

Overall The Drowsy Chaperone is essentially a bit of fun and lacks too much didactic quality. It may not redeliver the awards the 5th Avenue rightfully scooped for Cabaret, but it will entertain audiences, and bring its multi-year run across the world (this is the last stop with the original cast) to a successful conclusion.

The Drowsy Chaperone is produced by Kevin McCollum, Roy Miller, Bob Boyett, Stephanie McClelland, Barbara Freitag and Jill Furman.

Lindsi Dec and Kari Brunson
Lindsi Dec and Kari Brunson in the
world premiere of Kiyon Gaines’ M-Pulse
©Photo Angela Sterling

Pacific Northwest Ballet
New Works
November 6 – 16

Pacific Northwest Ballet presented us with a varied night of New Works; three of which were world or PNB premieres and the fourth, William Forsythe’s “One Flat Thing, Reproduced” which premiered last spring. The PNB has a strong reputation for putting on new works, including the two new Twyla Tharp pieces earlier this fall. This program follows the strong lead of “All Tharp”.

PNB premiere “A Garden” by Mark Morris (to music by Richard Strauss) began the program and as seems to be the PNB way on ‘New Works’ nights, delicacy and grace in the first piece paved the way for the edgier and more experimental pieces to follow. “A Garden” featured PNB audience favourites, Jonathan Porretta, Lucien Postlewaite, Belgium’s Olivier Wevers and Brazil’s Carla Körbes among others.

Opinion was divided (accompanied by some fierce debate) between those for whom “M-Pulse”, the edgy experimental second piece, was the evening’s highlight, and a more traditionalist support for the second world premiere of the night, “3 Movements” by Steve Reich and Benjamin Millepied, a principal dancer with New York City Ballet.

“M-Pulse” was choreographed by PNB corps de ballet dancer Kiyon Gaines with Cristina Spinei’s music, and on this evidence he has a great future as both choreographer and dancer. Kiyon joined the Pacific Northwest Ballet as a member of the corps de ballet in 2001. Invited by Peter Boal to create his first repertory work for PNB in 2008, “M-Pulse” is the result of that invitation. Featuring inter alia Carrie Imler, Lindsi Dec and Kari Brunson (dancing especially gracefully), Gaines’ debut as a choreographer filled the stage with radiant costumes and vibrant and zestful syncopation that was the perfect introduction to “3 Movements".

In “3 Movements”, the intensity of motion escalates in rapid increments against a less colourful, almost monochromatic backdrop, and it would be fair to say that this second world premiere of the show could be safely judged the audience favourite on the night. Millepied’s choreography is put to an unobtrusive score by Reich and this allows the 16 dancers occupying the stage to express themselves fully. Prost Amerika makes no claim to impartiality but Chalnessa Eames, James Moore and Lesley Rausch rarely fail to captivate their audience, and they captivated again tonight. But this triumph doesn’t belong to individual performers but to Reich and Millepied and the group as a whole.

“One Flat Thing, Reproduced” originally appeared earlier this year and although an interesting concept, it never really unraveled or developed. Rectangular desks, like those of a work cafeteria, are placed in line on the stage and the dancers do their best to utilise them as props. The colours of the outfits are bright enough and the “industrial” musical score is edgy but energy and innovativeness weren’t quite enough for “One Flat Thing” to eclipse what had gone before.

On a sad note, the evening was dedicated to Edward “Tuba Man” McMichael, who died tragically this week after decades of playing in various locations around Seattle including McCaw Hall. Flowers had been laid out near the lobby door in remembrance.

Alexandra Dickson and Timothy Lynch
Alexandra Dickson and Timothy Lynch
Image: Zebravisual © 2008

Project Orpheus
Seattle Dance Project
ACT Theater - Bullitt Cabaret
September 13, 19, 20, 26, 27, Oct. 3 & 4

by Cyrus Khambatta

In an unusual and inspired concept, Seattle Dance Project enlisted three choreographers - Wade Madsen, Eva Stone and Olivier Wevers – to collaborate on its’ version of the Greek Myth Orpheus and Eurydice in a work, entitled Project Orpheus.

Perhaps most striking were two scenes; Orpheus’ (Joseph Anderson) “Request for Euridice” in which Madsen lined up two tables behind which the dancers sat and rattled a battery of questions in deep, halting breaths, asking how his request for Eurydice “would affect his art.” The scene, reminiscent of the antics of the New York-based Wooster Group, was hysterical and highly effective at simultaneously evoking Orpheus’ desperation for Eurydice at the unwelcome impediment.

The second, The Journey Duet, choreographed by Olivier Weavers was simply an arresting dance for Anderson and Julia Tobiason who played Eurydice. Weavers is himself a principal with Pacific Northwest Ballet, but given to choreographing about town in a variety of contexts. The passage had intricate and physically challenging partnering that was both poignant and beautiful. Anderson has a confident easiness to him and Ms. Tobiason is both fragile and resilient and her dancing is delightful in this section.

The rest of the work is fairly light and at times playful. The stage painted by Ruth Gilmore, must be no larger than a large dining room. As the dancers scooted across the floor, their feet brushed the rough paint, making a faint sandpaper sound, but they made excellent use of the space, nonetheless.

Co-Directed by Timothy Lynch and Julia Tobiason, and founded in 2007, Seattle Dance Project is a newcomer in town and all its dancers formerly hailed from the Pacific Northwest Ballet.
5th Avenue Theatre Logo
5th Avenue Theatre Logo
Shrek
Brian D'Arcy James as Shrek
© DreamWorks Theatricals:
Photo Joan Marcus

Shrek - the Musical
5th Avenue Theater
August 14 - September 21

 

 

By Janet Luhrs

Who’d think that a silly, crazy cast of swamp-dwelling ogres, gremlins, and fairy tale creatures could inspire an opening night audience to give a standing ovation? I’ll admit it – I was surprised. When given this assignment, I was skeptical. I hadn’t seen the movie, and didn’t see how some green monster could hold my attention. Wrong.

Shrek the Musical is sheer delight for all ages and types. We saw plenty of kids, suits, middle-aged ladies, prom queen types, 20-and 30 somethings, hipsters and parents. We sat in front and felt like we were in the middle of a fairy tale ride through Disneyland. The set was elaborately first-class and for the most part so were the costumes. The acting was superb, especially by Sutton Foster who played Princess Fiona, and Christopher Sieber, who played Lord Farquaad. Chester Gregory, who played the donkey, brought uninhibited, wide-ranging humor to his character – and he really brightened the stage. Shrek himself, played by Brian D’Arcy, was loveable.

Shrek
Keaton Whittaker, Sutton Foster and Marissa
O'Donnell as Young, Princess and Teen Fiona
© DreamWorks Theatricals: Photo Joan Marcus
I loved the whimsy, such as when beautiful Princess Fiona began realizing she was falling in love with ugly Shrek. At that moment, the three blind mice fairy tale creatures danced out onto the stage, singing “Love is blind.” On the other hand, the weakness of Shrek the Musical is the music – overall. The tunes aren’t memorable, and as a result, they don’t do justice to the strong, vibrant voices of the cast. Sutton Foster, who has starred in numerous musicals and has been nominated for a Tony, has a gorgeous voice, and we only got to enjoy the full range on one or two occasions. Yet, her ability to bend and flex as an actor – moving from innocent to ironic in a nanosecond – more than made up for the lack of great melodies. Ditto with Christopher Sieber, who has a similar talent for flexibility, not only in his personality, but also the way he parades around on his knees during the entire show because his character is short.

Great acting notwithstanding – what really ties this show together is the script and underlying message. “To hell with the image of perfect” is the most refreshing battle cry of Shrek. Most of us grew up with fairy tales and the idea that other people have perfect lives and we’re the only ones who are flawed. But Shrek does a terrific job of blowing that idea right out of the water, and in fact, that’s how Princess Fiona and Shrek initially bond – when they both admit how flawed they are, and how bad their childhoods were, even one-upping each other over whose was worse.

Shrek the Musical is an adaptation of the classic William Steig book and the Oscar-winning film. Lyrics are by David Lindsay-Abaire, music by Jeanine Tesori and the play is directed by Jason Moore.

Janet Luhrs is author of The Simple Living Guide, Simple Loving, and the monthly newsletter Simple Living.
Elza van Heever
Elza van den Heever
International Wagner Competition and
Audience Favorite award-winner
© Rozarii Lynch photo

South African Soprano Scoops Wagner Prize

Elza van den Heever delights audience and judges but Orchestra favours Nadine Weissman.

August 16

The Annual International Wagner competition took place at Seattle Opera and the expected titanic battle between Europe and the USA, a kind of Operatic Ryder Cup, was shattered when delightful South African soprano Elza van den Heever claimed the judges and audience accolades after performing “Dich, teure Halle” from Tannhäuser and “Einsame in trüben Tagen” from Lohengrin. Germany’s mezzo-soprano Nadine Weissmann was voted Orchestra Favourite. She sang "Weiche, Wotan, Weiche" (Das Rheingold) and Waltraute's Narrative (Götterdämmerung).

On a night where women ruled supreme, Sweden’s Michael Weinius took the men’s prize after performing "Preislied" (Die Meistersinger) in the first half of the program and "Amfortas! Die Wunde" (Parsifal) in the second half of the program.

The full list of competitors was:
Darren Jeffery (England), Erin Caves (USA), Nadine Weissmann (Germany), Michael Weinius (Sweden), Elza van den Heever (South Africa), Peter Lobert (Germany), Jason Collins (USA), and Deborah Humble (Australia).

For a personal commentary and review of the event by Karina Weishaar, please visit It's Ladies Night at the Opera.

ACT Theatre Logo

Intimate Exchanges by Alan Ayckbournbourn
ACT Theatre
August 21 - September 14

 

 

Marianne Owen and R Hamilton Wright in Intimate Exchanges
Marianne Owen and R Hamilton Wrightright
as Celia and Toby Teasdale

Photo: © Chris Bennion
One thing you can be certain of at the ACT Theatre is that they will take on the difficult, the experimental and the unusual. Intimate Exchanges is comprised of eight plays generated from a single opening scene. According to Ayckbourn himself, “The female character makes a decision in the first few lines of the play.” This decides what path the play will travel that night but the actors have to remember 16 or 17 hours of dialogue covering ten roles.

However, just one "gimmick" just ain’t enough for the ACT. Two actors, Marianne Owen and R Hamilton Wright perform all the parts and each played three characters this night. Marianne Owen is outstanding as Celia Teasdale, the middle class sexually frustrated nervous wife of Toby, the local school headmaster. Wright played three roles and it was as her husband Toby he was the most entertaining as he fulminated on the evils of modern life ranging from floodlit cricket to the price of whisky. This was Wright's forte and despite obvious cultural differences, his list of life’s most irksome irritations brought great laughter from the audience.

Owen also played the roles of Sylvie and Irene Pridworthy, an opinionated and intolerant local busybody that just kept reminding me of Margaret Thatcher. I thought I was over that too! Pridworthy has some great lines and some great stares and Owen delivered them cleverly. Wright also played Lionel Hepplewick, the utterly useless handyman who becomes an utterly useless baker. It has to be said that whereas their upper middle class accents were both absolutely perfect, and their upper class English accents passable, both actors struggled just a little with the working class Yorkshire accent. Then again, so do many Yorkshiremen and they’re not trying to perform other accents simultaneously.

Nonetheless, this is a tour de force for both actors and the ACT obligingly have a scheme to encourage you to go back and see an alternate version at half the price. This is a fine start to the ACT season and the actors are deserving of great credit.

Seattle Opera - Aida
August 2 - 23


Stephanie Blythe as Amneris
Photo: © Bill Mohn
When Guiseppe Verdi wrote Aida in 1870, he created an opera written for the people. From the opening notes of the overture, the audience in McCaw Hall was drawn into a world which is both far away and yet intimately familiar.

Aida is a story of the conflict of love and duty. The action takes place in Egypt in the midst of a war between Egypt and Ethiopia. Aida (Lisa Daltirus) has been captured as a slave by the Egyptians, unbeknownst to all as the daughter of the King of Ethiopia. She loves and is loved by Radames (Antonello Palombi), the hero of the Egyptian Army.

Were this not opera, the story would end here, but this being opera, we add Amneris (Stephanie Blythe), the Pharo's daughter who is in love with (as you guessed) Radames to the mix. If you’re thinking this isn’t going to end well for our two lovers, you’re right. Aida’s father, Amonasro (Charles Taylor) convices Aida to use her feminine wiles to obtain state secrets thus leading us to our crushing denouement. Radames betrays his country for love and is condemned to be buried alive. Aida chooses to share his fate and the lovers die in grand, heart-wrenching operatic style.

The control Lisa Daltirus had over her voice as Aida was impressive, maintaining the tuning even in the highest register and producing a very beautiful lyric line. Her voice was the perfect contrast to the dramatic Amneris. Some of the intimacy of the “O Patra Mia” was diverted due to set staging, but the subtlety and sweetness in her voice made you really sympathize with her plight. Stephanie Blythe is the reigning Queen of the mezzo-soprano repertoire and her Amneris was a delight to the senses. The sheer size of her voice, the impeccable technique and the ease at which she was able to soar her voice over orchestra, chorus and small buildings in a single bound, had this reviewer looking for a cigarette. Her performance made one wonder if the opera should have been called Amneris instead of Aida.


Lisa Daltirus (Aida) and) and
Antonello Palombi (Radames)

Photo: © Rozarii Lynch
Antonello Palombi’s rich tenor voice portrayed both the strong, conquering hero as well as the tender lover with equal success. Radames was a man’s man and his betrayal by Aida was felt intimately. The final duet between Aida and Radames was a tender and magical moment on stage. Joseph Rawly as the King of Egypt brought the right nobility to the stage while bass-baritone Charles Taylor, is believable (if a bit young) as Aida’s father, Amonasro.

The High Priestess, Priti Gandhi provided a delightful contrast against the lush sounds on the stage at the end of the first Act. Special commendation must be made to the chorus for a truly beautiful performance. Though there were no elephants in the Seattle Opera performance, Speight Jenkins put his faith in Verdi and his faith was repaid. The rich orchestrations so brilliantly conducted by Riccardo Frizza, the colorful and triumphant sets by Michael Yeargan, brilliant choruses, dramatic arias and ensembles made Aida the perfect kickoff to a fantastic Season with Seattle Opera.

Teatro ZinZanni - Quest for a Queendom

Kevin Kent
Kevin Kent
Seattle’s most European attraction continues its life in its new home as ‘Quest for a Queendom’ becomes their third production there. Krissie Illing is hilarious as Queen Wilma in her close to the mark impersonation of the Queen of England, as she plays a sexually frustrated monarch looking for lov Also looking for love, and probably in the same place, is Kevin Kent as her camp manservant Manchester. Music is provided by Chicago songbird Francine Reed. Krissie is also the founder of “Comedy Ladies Night” with Hertha von Schwatzig, a showcase for female comedians in Germany.


The Maiers iers
The humour is bawdy though never over the edge and the comedy is ably supported by the antics of Parisian circus troupers Les Castors, Chinese acrobats Ling Rui and Fang Ming, and German trapezists Crystalle Bobbe and Die Maiers from Berlin.

The Berlin resident couple performed what can best be described as a sexual trapeze act, while Berlin native, Crystalle Bobbe, performed with grace and athleticism while suspended from just what appeared to be a length of linen. If you can take your eyes of her, we recommend you glance at the silhouette she creates on the tent. Les Castors are ZinZanni regulars and their ‘Risley’ or body juggling is quite remarkable.

But it is really Kevin Kent amongst whom the storyline turns. Increasing the Berlin connection, he just returned from Evi und das Tier in a new Spiegeltent there. Other than numerous plays on the word ‘queen’, Kent is at his best when interacting with a victim from the audience. He cleverly keeps the humiliation of this poor victim within the comfort level of the customer and his craft is a joy to watch. It’s also very funny.

We should also mention that your ticket includes a five course meal. The serving of the courses is cleverly interwoven with the show and the serving staff are very much part of the entertainment. Teatro ZinZanni opened in 1998. Its mixture of comedy, theatrics and music is presented in a beautiful antique Belgian Spiegeltent.

Teatro ZinZanni plays Wednesday to Sunday at 222 Mercer Street. Call 206 802 0015 for reservations.

Intiman - Diary of Anne Frank


Lucy DeVito und Connor Toms Toms
© Chris Bennion 2008
On June 12, 1942, Anne Frank’s parents gave her a diary for her 13th birthday. 24 days later her family went into hiding in Amsterdam as the anti-Jewish decrees began to make life for her family intolerable.

More than 50 years later, this diary has become one of the most famous chronicles of the period. Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett’s dramatization, directed by Sari Kellet, brought Anne’s diary to life in a most remarkable fashion.

Lucy DeVito not only strikingly resembles Anne Frank herself but turns in an incredible performance as the teenager battling the grimness of her situation to stay idealistic. The script tells the story as Anne’s family, the van Daans and Mr Dussel try to live together in a crowded attic hidden from all but Mr Kraler and Miep, close friends.

Between scenes and to display the passage of time, Anne reads excerpts from her diary to the audience. It would be impossible to overstate how moving this piece of theater is. Goodrich and Hackett resist the temptation to overdramatize eight people crammed into an attic. Matthew Boston leads the cast as Anne’s father. He becomes the dominant figure and the rock of the house despite desperately struggling to conceal his own anguish at the fate of his family. At times, he almost seems to speak for us, the audience, as we desperately will the beleaguered occupant to stop arguing and stay hopeful.

Michael Winters plays Mr van Daan and he provides a perfect contrast to Boston with his inability to adapt to their fate. Unable to compete with the authority of Mr Frank, the bossiness of his wife and the increasing independence of his son – Peter , played by Connor Toms - he is reduced to a low level war with his son’s cat, as a metaphor for the loss of control of any aspect of his life.

But really, there is not a weak link in this cast. By the end of the play, the cast displayed an exhaustion which is a fine testament to how deeply they threw themselves into their roles, and how absorbing a work it is.

It’s a long play at 2 ½ hours and the subject matter is grueling but if you see anything this year, see Anne Frank at the Intiman.

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